Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed, usually due to swelling of the nerve or surrounding tendons. The median nerve is key to the feelings of the hand, providing sensations to the palm side of the thumb, middle finger index finger and the inside half of the ring finger. It also powers the muscles in the forearm and hand which allow you to create a pincher grasp. Pain or pressure on this nerve is known as carpal tunnel syndrome and it can manifest in a wide range of different ways.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually develop over time and it usually begins with being more painful either first thing in the morning or during the night. There are three main symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Tingling sensation
- Numbness in the fingers
- Acute pain
These sensations occur in the thumb, middle finger, index finger and that half of the ring finger affected by the median nerve although the tingling sensation sometimes extends outside of the area, as does the numbness and even the pain in some cases. Usually the syndrome initially affects one hand but it eventually does affect both.
Further symptoms which can be related to carpal tunnel syndrome including a dull aching and discomfort in the hand, as well as the forearm and upper arm. It can make the hand feel heavy and difficult to use. Another symptom you may experience is a prickling, almost burning sensation which is similar to extended pins and needles and also dry skin around the affected area, which can even be discoloured. The skin in the area can also become less sensitive to touch and after time some people with carpal tunnel syndrome experience weakness and atrophy of the muscles at the base of the thumb.
Treatment Pathways for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
In some cases carpal tunnel syndrome improves after a number of months but in others it is an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis and needs to be treated as such. In both cases only time will tell. In terms of immediate treatment you may be offering wrist splints or corticosteroid injections to help reduce the pain. If Carpal Tunnel Syndrome isn’t relieved by either of these methods then you may be referred for carpal tunnel decompression or carpel tunnel release surgery, which should help relieve the pressure on the median nerve in the wrist and return your hand and wrist back to normal use quite quickly.
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