Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: An Overview
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
There are 8 bones in our wrists called carpals. They form a tunnel like structure. That is how carpal tunnel got its name. Finger movements are controlled by flexor tendons, which are found within this tunnel. The median nerve reaches sensory cells in the hand, through this pathway of tunnel.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful and progressive condition that occurs in the wrist. It is caused by the compression of the median nerve in the wrist. The median nerve runs into the hand starting from the forearm. When it becomes squeezed or pressed at the wrist, its message carrying and receiving ability from the brain gets inhibited. It is not necessary that the whole median nerve be pressed to cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
The syndrome is caused when a point on the nerve is pressed. As a result of this compression the nerve does not function properly and causes carpal tunnel syndrome.
1 out of every 100 people is affected by carpal tunnel syndrome at some point in their life. It is commonly caused in the women of the age group of 30-50 years. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also known as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Carpal tunnel syndrome is inclusive of the (RSI) related soft tissue injuries.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Though there are various possibilities behind the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, the basic cause is the compression of tunnel walls. As the tunnel walls compress, they put pressure on the median nerve. As the median nerve gets stressed, it causes carpal tunnel syndrome.
Congenital predisposition is also a cause of carpal tunnel disorder. In a majority of cases the carpal tunnel is smaller than the normal, which causes the median nerve to stress.
The syndrome can develop quickly, if the wrist has been fractured or injured.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is also a cause of carpal tunnel syndrome.
In some cases repetitive stress induced carpal tunnel strain causes this syndrome. If a persons occupation involves, gripping, typing or digging, the hand gets strained and it directly strains the median nerve.
Repetitive wrist and hand action results in the injury and swelling of the subcutaneous tissues. These tissues include muscle, ligament, fascia, sheaths, tendon, blood vessels and peripheral and retinaculum nerve. Due to the small and restricted passage of the tunnel, these swollen tissues can compress together and create concentrated pressure.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can also be caused due to some trauma based incidents. These causes include fracture or injury of the wrist or one of the arm bones. Internal hemorrhaging in the wrist leads to formation of hematoma which causes the syndrome. If any one of the carpal bones of the wrist gets dislocated, it leads to carpal syndrome.
Obesity is another common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Women who take contraceptive pills can also go on to develop this condition.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The early symptoms include tingling, numbness and burning in the thumb and the index and middle fingers. People suffering from this syndrome, find it hard to grip things, or make a fist. The symptom grows to a severe pain in the hand and restricts the movement of the hand at all. A person gradually loses his ability to squeeze things. They may even find it very hard to tie their shoe laces and picking things up becomes a challenge.
In the worst cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, the patients are unable to differentiate between hot and cold things by touch.
Who is at Risk?
People who are involved in assembly line work are at the maximum risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
However it can also develop in the people who are constantly related to any of the following activities or professions:
- Video games
- Computer keyboard typing or typewriter typing
- Musical instruments
- Driving a vehicle
- Surgeons and Dentists
- People involved in exhaustive activity of hands like drilling, digging.
Avoiding repetitive and exhaustive activities related to hand movement, is the first instruction for someone suffering with carpal tunnel syndrome. The patient must abstain from such activities in order to give relief to their hand and free the median nerve of pressure.
Stretching exercises also helps in treating the syndrome as exercising helps in maintaining blood flow normal in the nerves.
Medicines like corticosteroid and prescription based NSAIDs can help in relieving the syndrome.
If the condition gets worse, there is the option of surgery.
You should consult your doctor immediately if you feel you may be suffering with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.