What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is also known as median nerve entrapment. Carpal tunnel is that portion of wrist from where median nerve enters the palm. The median nerve provides sensations and movement to the palm. Pinch or twitch of this nerve due to either swelling or size of the carpal tunnel is termed as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Those people engaged in continuous hand activities like sewing or assembly line work suffer from this syndrome. This is characterized by the damage of hands and fingers muscles. Numbness and tingling sensation coupled with weakness are few of the early symptoms of this disease.

Activities like painting, writing, sewing, playing musical instruments etc require repetitive motion of hands. This disease, that is why, is commonly found in artists. Various anomalies arising due to this syndrome are kidney failure, hypothyroidism, arthritis of hand, bone fracture. This problem is more common in women than men. Women suffer from obesity, menopause, PMS because of this syndrome.  Even bone fracture is threatened if the condition worsens.

Pain extending to elbows and constant pain in wrist are some of the diagnostic features of this syndrome. People suffering from this disease find difficulty in carrying things. Problems in coordination of finger movements and weakness in hands is observed in advanced stages.

Doctor examines the patient for numbness, weak hand grip as general examination procedure. Tapping of median nerve results in pain which originates from wrist and goes up to elbow. This is known as Tinel’s sign. Phalen’s test includes bending the wrist for 60 seconds causing numbness or tingling. Doctors also advise some tests like electromyography. This is performed by recording readings while placing needles into muscles. X-ray of wrist is taken to rule out other possibilities. Nerve conduction velocity tests are done using surface electrodes which records electrical impulse stimulating the nerves.

Change in habits can prevent this syndrome from worsening. Sleeping on wrists should be avoided. Hot and cold compresses provide a lot of relief. Some precautions at workplace should be taken to avoid the stress on the wrist. An occupational therapist should be considered for better and suitable working positions to cope up with the syndrome. This disease is very common among those musicians who play vibrating instruments. Change in recreational activities can also be tried.

Ibuprofen or Naproxen is commonly used to treat this syndrome. Injections of corticosteroid at carpal tunnel area also provide relief to the patient for some time. Surgical procedure includes cutting into the ligament reaching the median nerve. But decision about surgery depends upon the degree of compression the nerve has gone through. Surgery of carpal tunnel area is termed as carpal tunnel release. Before opting for surgery, non-surgical treatments are first tried to cure the problem.