What are the root causes of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome?
In your body there are eight bones that form your wrist. These bones create a U-shaped channel that holds several tendons as well as your median nerve. This channel is commonly referred to as the carpal tunnel. The median nerve is responsible for the feeling you have on the palm side of your first 3 ½ fingers. Compression or irritation of the median nerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel causes what we know to be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). CTS is the most common nerve entanglement, affecting 3-5% of the entire population. Females are two or three times more likely to get CTS than males. Carpal tunnel syndrome is most often found in adults aged 45-60.
CTS can happen because of prolonged wrist flexion and/or repetitive wrist movements like scanning at a grocery store, keyboard use, carpentry or working on an assembly line. Being exposed to certain vibrations or even to the cold may also aggravate the condition. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often happens in your dominant hand but also can affect both hands.
Some of the risks for developing CTS include diabetes, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism, kidney disease and being short or gaining an excessive amount of weight. Fluid retention when a woman is pregnant is a very common cause of carpal tunnel symptoms.
Some of the symptoms of CTS include numbness, tingling or discomfort on the palm side of your thumb, index, middle finger and half of your ring finger. The discomfort can extend towards your elbow. The symptoms usually start in the night and discomfort or waking up with numb hands can progress to a constant annoyance. Your symptoms are likely worsened by tight gripped activities like reading the paper, driving or painting. Early on, your symptoms may be relieved by "shaking your hands out". You may sometimes feel as though your hands are tight or swollen. In more severe cases, you hand can develop weaknesses.
The compression of your median nerve in your carpal tunnel is often accompanied by the compression of a second or third site as well. Most reserachers call this "the double crush syndrome." Common "double crush" partners for CTS can most likely involve the spine or muscles in the neck, shoulder and forearm.
To help resolve your condition, you should really avoid activities that involve repetitive wrist flexion, i.e. pushups. Grasping the handlebars on your bicycle or any movement that would strain the muscles and that will likely cause irritation of your condition. Our office may prescribe a special splint, depending on severity, that holds your wrist in a neutral or slightly extended position that will really help you with your nighttime symptoms. We want to help you.
If you left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can end up causing permanent nerve damage. The American Academy of Neurology suggests conservative treatment, like the type we provide in our office, before considering surgical alternatives.