Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a relatively common condition that causes a tingling sensation, numbness and sometimes pain in the hand and fingers.
Usually, these sensations develop gradually and start off being worse during the night. They tend to affect the thumb, index finger and middle finger.
Other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
• pins and needles (paraesthesia)
• thumb weakness
• a dull ache in the hand or arm
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of one of the nerves that controls sensation and movement in the hands (median nerve).
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in your wrist made up of small bones and a tough band of tissue that acts as a pulley for the tendons that bend the fingers.
It isn't known why the median nerve becomes compressed in most cases, although certain things are thought to increase the risk of CTS developing, such as:
• a family history of CTS
• pregnancy – up to about 50% of pregnant women develop CTS
• injuries to the wrist
• other health conditions, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis
• strenuous, repetitive work with the hand
Read more about the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Treating carpal tunnel syndrome
In some cases CTS will disappear without treatment, or simple self-care measures will reduce the symptoms.
CTS in pregnant women often gets better within three months of the baby being born, although it may need treatment. In some women, symptoms can continue for more than a year.
Non-surgical treatments, such as wrist splints and corticosteroid injections, are used to treat mild or moderate symptoms.
Who is affected?
CTS is more common in women than men.
Although CTS becomes more common with age, it can affect people of all ages.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Individuals whose jobs or normal activities require them to do the same repetitive motions are most at risk for getting the condition known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This medical condition, caused by a pinched nerve located in the wrist, creates pain in the affected arm and hand. It also often becomes progressively worse over time. There are a number of symptoms that are common to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Occurring most often in one or both hands, CPT is often first noticed at nighttime when the body is at rest.
One of the most common symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a feeling of numbness or a painful tingling sensation experienced at night severe enough to awaken the person from a sound sleep. In addition, there may be a sensation that the hand is falling asleep and is experiencing being pricked by multiple pins and needles. Individuals may also notice that they feel pain in their hand or wrist when attempting to grasp an object or flex their hand at the wrist. Additional symptoms include a dull aching sensation along the forearm between the elbow and the wrist, as well as difficulty in moving the fingers first thing after sleep because they feel very stiff.
The symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often make it difficult for an individual to do simple tasks such as brush their teeth or comb their hair without pain. They are also more prone to dropping objects they attempt to pick up or carry. People also experience the inability to pinch an object between their thumb and first finger, or experience weakness in the thumb that makes certain tasks more difficult.
Avoiding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The best way to avoid getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is to take frequent breaks when doing any task involving repetitive motion in order to stretch the muscles, as well as rest. Repetitive movements should be alternated with another type of activity and it’s important not to allow the body to remain fixed in the same position for any length of time. Another way to avoid getting the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is to arrange the space you are working in using ergonomic principles so that the positioning of your body overall, specifically your hands and arms, do not stress the nerves and muscles. Maintaining a healthy weight as well as participating in regular exercise can also help an individual avoid developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.