Formed by the bones, tendons and ligaments that surround the median nerve is the carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel syndrome patients notice numbness, pain and weakness since the median nerve supplies sensation to the thumb, index, and middle finger and part of the ring finger - these being digits one through four - and provides motion to the muscles of the thumb and hand. The compression of the median nerve as it passes into the hand is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
On the palm side of your hand the median nerve is located and this is called the carpal tunnel. This median nerve supplies the impulse to the muscle going to the thumb and provides sensation to your thumb, index finger, long finger, and part of the ring finger. Inside your wrist, swelling causes the compression in carpal tunnel syndrome and it can occur in one or both of your hands. Carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to numbness, weakness, and tingling on the side of your hand near the thumb.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptons Start Gradually
Usually carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms start gradually. Often the first symptoms will include numbness or tingling in your thumb, index and middle fingers that comes and goes. You may also feel discomfort in your wrist and the palm of your hand when suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms including tingling or numbness may be experienced. In most cases the thumb and index, middle or ring fingers are affected, but not your little finger. A sensation like an electric shock sometimes is felt in these fingers. This feeling may travel from your wrist up your arm. Many times these symptoms can occur while holding a steering wheel, phone or newspaper.
The painful effects of carpal tunnel syndrome may wake you from sleep and many people "shake out" their hands to try to relieve their symptoms. Over time this numb feeling may become constant and you may experience weakness in your hand and a tendency to drop objects. It is possible that this may be due to the numbness in your hand or weakness of the thumb's pinching muscles, as these are also controlled by the median nerve.
You may have less grip strength because the muscles in your hand shrink as carpal tunnel syndrome becomes more severe. Because the median nerve begins to lose function due to the irritation or pressure around it, pain and muscle cramping will also become worse.These complications lead to slower nerve impulses, loss of feeling in the fingers, a loss of strength and coordination, and especially the ability to use your thumb to pinch. At the worst you could end up with permanent muscle damage and lose function in your hand so, do not delay seeing a doctor.
Women Are More Likely to Get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Because they have a smaller carpal tunnel than men women are three times more likely than men to get the condition. The symptoms usually clear up within a few months after delivery when the condition is brought on by pregnancy. Those jobs such as assembly line worker, musician, hair stylist, cashier, baker, sewer or knitter that involve repeating the same motion with your arm over a long time may raise your chances of getting the condition.
Doctors Can Diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Using a combination of your history, a physical examination, and tests called nerve conduction studies doctors can diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. A detailed evaluation of your hand, wrist, shoulder, and neck to check for any other causes of nerve pressure will be part of the physical examination. Signs of tenderness, swelling, and any deformities will be looked for by your doctor at your wrists and they will check sensation to the fingers and strength of the muscles in your hand. Diagnostic tests that can measure the conduction speed of your nerve impulses are nerve conduction studies. In the event that the nerve impulse is slower than normal as the nerve passes into the hand it is possible that you may have carpal tunnel syndrome.
How severe your pain and symptoms are and if there is weakness will influence your treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. The Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons released guidelines for the effective treatment of carpal tunnel in 2008 and the recommendation was to try to manage carpal tunnel pain without surgery, if possible. Some of the nonsurgical options include avoiding positions that overextend your wrist, wrist splints that hold your hand in a neutral position, especially at night, mild pain medication and medications to reduce inflammation. Another treatment is steroid injections into your carpal tunnel area to reduce inflammation and treatment of any underlying conditions you may have, such as diabetes or arthritis.
If your symptoms are severe or do not respond to other treatments surgery may be appropriate. To relieve pressure by cutting the ligament pressing on the median nerve is the goal of carpal tunnel surgery. If there is severe damage to your median nerve, surgery may be necessary. Medical case factors that determine success or failure of surgery are age of the patient, duration of symptoms, the presence of diabetes mellitus, and if there is weakness, which in many cases is a late sign. Usually the prognosis for the outcome is good.