What is it?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition which causes pain and other sensory changes in the hand and forearm. This is caused by the compression or squeezing of the main nerve, the median nerve, as it travels from the forearm into the wrist.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist which protects vital structures such as the median nerve, blood vessels and tendons as they pass through to your hand. The edges of the carpal tunnel are formed by the small wrist bones, and the roof of the tunnel is formed by a strong band of connective tissue called the transverse carpal ligament. Due to these structures being so rigid, the tunnel has limited capacity to stretch.
What causes it?
Symptoms begin when the tunnel becomes narrowed, which results in the compression of the median nerve. The pressure can increase due swelling, which reduces the amount of space in the tunnel. Swelling can result from a previous traumatic injury, repetitive hand movements, pregnancy and arthritis, however most cases of carpal tunnel the cause is due to a combination of factors.
Some of the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome may include:Numbness Pins and needles Pain in your hand which may travel up the forearm Weakness which causes you to drop items
It is common for these symptoms to begin gradually and come and go at first. However, as the condition worsens the symptoms may occur more frequently and become more painful. Symptoms usually worsen at night time due to the wrist position when sleeping.
If diagnosed and treated early, symptoms of carpal tunnel can be improved without the need for surgery. Treatment modalities include:Splinting or bracing – wearing a brace at night time especially will stop the wrist from bending during your sleep, this position causes pain and numbness. The brace will keep your wrist in a straight position. Activity changes – changing your hand position during your daily activities can help relieve symptoms, especially if you do repetitive movements throughout the day.
If non-surgical treatment does not resolve the pain after a period of time surgery may be recommended depending on the severity of the condition.
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Thanks to Coast Sport Physiotherapist Laura for preparing this blog. You can find out more about Laura here.