Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition of a compressed nerve in your hand. The syndrome is identified by numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hand. One of the main reasons for carpal tunnel syndrome is increased pressure on the median nerve that runs along your arm and passes through your wrist to end in your hand.
The median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel present in your hand, and that’s why the syndrome is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Structure & position of the Carpel Tunnel ligament in human hand–
The human wrist consists of small bones that connect the elongated finger bones to the Radius and Ulna bones of your lower arm. To bind these small bones together and connect them to the ulna and radius, several muscle tissues like tendons and ligaments play a huge role. The median nerve is one of the vital nerves in that region placed between the carpal bones below the transverse carpal ligament. The tendons that attach the nearby muscles together for smooth wrist movements comfort the median nerve.
The carpel tunnel pathway is pretty narrow and only an inch wide. The small carpel bones form the floor and sides of the tunnel. The nerve roots which originate from the neck come together to form the median nerve. Around nine major tendons are responsible for smooth movement of the fingers and thumb. They all pass through the carpal tunnel along with the median nerve.
Carpel tunnel syndrome is a condition when the carpal tunnel narrows or the tissues surrounding the same swell up putting pressure on the median nerve. The tissues surrounding the medium is a called the synovium and it is responsible to lubricate the tendons to allow smooth movement of fingers. When the synovium swells it put immense pressure on the surrounding including the median nerve and it results in pain, numbness and loss of proper wrist movements.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
- A short or prolonged sensation of burning, itching, or tingling in your hands.
- Waking up with a sore or numb hand.
- Trouble holding things
- Spasms in hand and fingers
- Uncomfortable wrist pain
- Swollen wrists
How is carpal tunnel syndrome caused?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused due to prolonged pressure on the median nerve. The tendons (tissues connecting muscles) around the median nerve can swell when your wrists are subjected to heavy pressure. Some possible reasons for the syndrome–
- Regular typing in an uncomfortable position.
- Prolonged exposure to vibrating machinery.
- Underlying health conditions like hypothyroidism, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Distal radius fracture (or wrist fracture)
We cannot ignore the fact that this syndrome can be heredity or pre-existing medical condition like diabetes, rheumatoid hand, rheumatoid arthritis. Even pregnancy has been found to trigger this condition. The excessive weight gain during pregnancy triggers pressure on the median nerve in the wrist and results in wrist pain.
How can you be sure it is Carpel Tunnel Syndrome??
Till the X-rays / MRI aren’t done even the doctors can’t conclude the cause of pain. However, some specific symptoms do hint at increased chances of carpal tunnel syndrome. They include the following like weakness in muscles around the base of the thumb or tingling sensation of numbness around the base of the thumb, consistent and increasing pain on movement of the thumb, loss of sensitivity at the tips of the fingers etc. The doctors mostly find out by tapping the inside of your wrist over the median nerve. However, to put his suspicions to rest, he would need electrophysiological tests/ X-rays/ MRI to confirm his diagnosis.
Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment
Stretching and other relaxing exercises can ease the pain.
- Using a splint/ bracing
A splint will align the wrist in the right posture and reduce the pressure exerted on it.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
Reduces swelling from the tendons and decreases pressure on the median nerve.
Although the last resort, carpal tunnel release broadens the carpal tunnel and reduces pressure on the nerves. Either the roof the tunnel is relieved by cutting the ligament to increase the size of the tunnel.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is curable if diagnosed early. But the caution is if this syndrome develops it only gets worse with time. So it is also advisable to know the cause of any pain. For the same consult your doctor if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms and start required treatment soon.
The median nerve being a vital nerve playing a crucial role for all the sensations and movements in your hand, it is something not to be taken lightly if any pain is felt, especially near the wrist or fingers. We often tend to ignore muscle pain as rest and ice is a simple solution that feels like a go-to solution to all such issues. However, be cautious if the pain persists and fingers/wrist revolt common movement.