Carpal tunnel syndrome is the compression of the median nerve as it passes into the hand. The median nerve is located on the palm side of your hand. The median nerve provides sensation to your thumb, index finger, long finger, and part of the ring finger. In fact, it supplies the impulse to the muscle going to the thumb. Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur in one or both of your hands. Swelling inside your wrist causes the compression in carpal tunnel syndrome. It can eventually lead to numbness, weakness, and tingling on the side of your hand near the thumb.
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms usually start very gradually. Most of the time, the first symptoms include numbness or tingling in your thumb, index and middle fingers that comes and goes. Carpal tunnel syndrome may also cause discomfort in your wrist and the palm of your hand. Common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include:
- Tingling or numbness. You may experience tingling and numbness in your fingers or hand. Usually the thumb and index, middle or ring fingers are affected, but not the little finger. Sometimes there is a sensation like an electric shock in these fingers. The sensation may travel from your wrist up your arm. These symptoms very often appear while holding a steering wheel, phone or something else in your hand. The sensation may even wake you up from sleep. Many people "shake out" their hands to try to relieve their symptoms but the numb feeling may become constant over time.
- Weakness. You may experience weakness in your hand and a tendency to drop objects very unexpectedly. This may be due to the numbness in your hand or weakness of the thumb's pinching muscles, which are also controlled by the median nerve.
- Sensation Problems - Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause a feeling of numbness in both hands. Some people feel like their fingers are swollen, even though no swelling is present, or they may have trouble distinguishing between hot and cold.
- Pain and Tingling - Carpal tunnel develops slowly. At first, you're most likely to notice it at night or when you first wake up in the morning. During the day, you may notice pain or tingling when holding things, like a phone or a book, or when driving. Shaking or moving your fingers usually helps.
Medical conditions sometimes linked to carpal tunnel syndrome include:
Women are three times more likely than men to get the condition. That may be because in general they have a smaller carpal tunnel than men. When the condition is brought on by pregnancy, the symptoms usually clear up within a few months after delivery.
The pain in your carpal tunnel is due to huge pressure in your wrist and on the median nerve. Also, inflammation can cause swelling. The most common cause of this inflammation is an underlying medical condition that causes swelling in the wrist, and sometimes obstructed blood flow. Some of the most frequent conditions linked with carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- thyroid dysfunction
- fluid retention from pregnancy or menopause
- high blood pressure
- fractures or trauma to the wrist
Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome depends on how severe your pain and symptoms are and if there is weakness. The Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons released guidelines for the effective treatment of carpal tunnel. The recommendation was to try to manage carpal tunnel pain without surgery, if possible.
During the healing process after the surgery, the ligament tissues gradually grow back together while allowing more room for the nerve. This internal healing process typically takes several months, but the skin heals in a few weeks. If you notice any symptoms of carpal tunnel, make sure to consult with a doctor as soon as possible.