Located in the wrist, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve often leading to numbness, tingling, and pain. The median nerve runs the length of the arm through a passage formed by bones and tissue in the wrist called the carpal tunnel passageway. While the carpal tunnel’s function is to protect the nerve, it can narrow and eventually pinch or compress the nerve. Left untreated Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can lead to slower nerve impulses, a loss of feeling in the fingers and a loss of strength and coordination in the hand.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs as a result of constant pressure or overexertion and compression of the median nerve. Repetitive motion can strain the carpal tunnel. It can also be caused by trauma to the wrist. For example, a person may experience inflammation that could compress the nerve from a bone fracture. Other conditions that may lead to swelling in the wrist include tumors, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy.
Patients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome feel pain in the thumb and the first three fingers due to the position of the median nerve in the body. However, they should not feel pain or numbness in the pinky fingers. Patients often feel a tingling or a pins and needles sensation in the rest of the fingers. They may have difficulty grasping objects such as a purse or a cell phone. Weakness in the hands can also be present causing patients to drop items or to have difficulty holding onto items as well. Hot and cold objects may be hard to differentiate. Symptoms initially come and go, but as the condition worsens the numb feeling may become consistent.
The good news is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common condition that is easy to treat. At The Spine & Pain Center, our physicians typically begin with a conservative approach such as ice and rest. We may suggest using a more ergonomically suitable keyboard that has less of an impact on the wrists as well. We can even provide our patients with a wrist splint to help prevent overexertion of the wrist and promote wrist wellness and healing. For swelling in the wrists leading to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be recommended to help relieve pressure off of the median nerve. Steroid injections of the wrist to reduce inflammation or physical therapy are other options as well.