Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is when the median nerve is squeezed
(compressed) as it passes through the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is an opening
in your wrist that is formed by the carpal bones on the bottom of the wrist and the
transverse carpal ligament across the top of the wrist. The median nerve provides
sensory and motor functions to the thumb and 3 middle fingers. If it gets compressed
or irritated, you may have symptoms.

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

These are the most common symptoms:

  • Weakness when gripping objects with one or both hands
  • Pain or numbness in one or both hands
  • “Pins and needles” feeling in the fingers
  • Swollen feeling in the fingers
  • Burning or tingling in the fingers, especially the thumb and
    the index and middle fingers
  • Pain or numbness that is worse at night, interrupting
    sleep

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may seem like other health
conditions or problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?

Your provider will check your health history and give you a
physical exam. He or she may advise electrodiagnostic tests on your nerves. These
tests are the best way to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. Electrodiagnostic tests
stimulate the muscles and nerves in your hand to see how well they work.

How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?

Your healthcare provider will discuss different treatment options
with you. Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will
also depend on how severe the condition is.

Treatment may include:

  • Splinting your hand. This
    helps keep your wrist from moving. It also eases the compression of the nerves
    inside the tunnel.
  • Anti-inflammatory
    medicines.
    These are taken by mouth (oral) or injected into the carpal
    tunnel space. These ease the swelling.
  • Worksite changes. Changing
    position of your computer keyboard or making other ergonomic changes can help
    ease symptoms.
  • Exercise. Stretching and
    strengthening exercises can help when your symptoms are better. A physical or
    occupational therapist may watch you do the exercises.
  • Surgery. You may need
    surgery if the condition doesn’t get better with other treatments or go away on
    its own. This surgery is called carpal tunnel release. This eases compression on
    the nerves in the carpal tunnel.
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