Do you often experience numbness in your hands? Are you frequently dropping things? If so, you might be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome. At Midwest Regenerative Pain and Health Clinic, we know that the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome could be affecting your daily life. Let’s learn all about carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes weakness, numbness, or tingling in the hand. It can also be called median nerve compression.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when too much pressure is placed on your median nerve. The median nerve runs the arm’s length and goes through a passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel ends in the hand. The median nerve controls the movement and feeling of the thumb and all fingers except the pinky.
When the median nerve is under pressure, you may experience slower nerve impulses, less feeling in the fingers, and reduced strength and coordination. Many people with carpal tunnel syndrome have a reduced ability to use their thumbs to pinch.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Weakness in the hand and trouble holding onto things
- Burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm and thumb
- Burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the index and middle fingers
- Shocking feeling that moves into the fingers
- Tingling that moves up into the arm
- Numbness in the fingers and hand as you sleep and when you wake up
In the beginning, shaking out your hands might make them feel better. However, as the condition progresses, shaking your hands may not make the numbness subside. Grip strength also decreases as the syndrome worsens. This weakness is caused by the hand muscles shrinking. Pain and muscle cramping are also common.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Many people can’t identify the cause of their carpal tunnel syndrome. However, this condition can be caused by:
- Various conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, obesity, and hypothyroidism
- Repetitive motions such as typing or writing—especially when the motions require your hands to be lower than the wrists
While the exact cause can be difficult to determine, there are a few risk factors that could put you at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel, including:
- Being female; women are three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel than men because females’ carpal tunnels tend to be smaller.
- Having a family member with small carpal tunnels.
- Having rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory conditions.
- Having diabetes of other chronic, nerve-damaging conditions.
- Fracturing or dislocating your wrist.
- Taking certain medications, such as anastrozole, a drug used to treat breast cancer.
- Having a job that requires you to make repetitive motions with your arms, wrists, or hands, such as baker, hairstylist, cashier, musician, and more.
- Body fluid changes, which are common during pregnancy and menopause, can lead to fluid retention and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Often, multiple risk factors and causes are at play when a person develops carpal tunnel syndrome.
How Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?
Doctors can run a few different tests to determine if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are a few of these tests:
- Tinel Sign Test: Your doctor will tap the palm side of your wrist or fully flex your wrist while your arm is extended.
- Electromyogram: Your doctor attaches a thin electrode into a muscle to measure its electrical activity.
- Imaging Tests: Certain imaging tests, such as x-rays, ultrasounds, and MRIs, can give doctors a good look at your bones and tissues.
- Nerve Conduction Studies: Your doctor will tape electrodes to your skin to measure the signals the nerves of your hand and arm give off.
How Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is dependent on how far along the condition has progressed. Here are a few possible treatments that your doctor could suggest:
- Exercises: Strengthening or stretching certain parts of the arm, wrist, and hand can help with carpal tunnel syndrome. Additionally, nerve gliding exercises can help the median nerve move better within the carpal tunnel.
- Immobilization: Your doctor might want you to keep your wrist and hand still, so they will give you a splint to wear. Keeping the wrist still can reduce the pressure on your median nerve and other nerves in the wrist. Wearing a splint at night can help prevent the numbness that might be waking you up, helping you sleep better.
- Lifestyle changes: Taking more breaks during activities that require repetitive motion might be part of your new routine. Your doctor might even recommend avoiding the activity that is causing your carpal tunnel syndrome altogether for a while.
- Medication: Anti-inflammatory medications or steroid shots might help curb the swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Surgery: If no other treatments are giving you the relief you need, surgery might be the best option. Carpal tunnel release surgery can increase the carpal tunnel’s size and ease the pressure placed on the nerves in your wrist.
How Can You Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
To prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, you can try a few different things, including:
- Taking frequent breaks whenever you can or need to
- Avoiding flexing and extending your wrists repeatedly
- Keeping your wrists straight
- Using a splint or brace to keep your wrists in a neutral position
- Keeping your hands warm
- Putting your hands and wrists in the correct position while you work
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, Midwest Regenerative Health and Pain Clinic can help you! We are pain management specialists who can treat a wide range of conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. To set up an appointment, call us today at 913-745-5300.