Carpal tunnel syndrome is a debilitating condition that causes numbness and pain in the hand. These symptoms can make daily tasks difficult for those suffering with them.
If you experience any carpal tunnel symptoms, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible. He or she will perform an evaluation and you can begin the treatment necessary for relieving your pain.
Inside the wrist, there is a tunnel that surrounds the tissues and bones. When this tunnel narrows due to repetitive exercise or injury, the tissues become inflamed and cause pressure to build up on the median nerve. This nerve is responsible for feeling in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers, so the pressure results in pain throughout the whole hand.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may be dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Numbness in your fingers
- Pain or numbness that becomes worse at night
- Burning or tingling in your fingers
- Itching in the palm and fingers
- Pain that moves up your arm to your elbow
- Weakness in the hand or fingers
- Difficulty making a fist and gripping
- Swollen feeling in fingers, even though there is no swelling apparent
- Inability to identify hot and cold by touch
Because many people sleep with their wrists flexed, symptoms often first appear during the night. Patients may wake up in the middle of the night with a stiff feeling, and symptoms will worsen and progress to tingling as time goes on.
Who’s at Risk?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is not caused by one specific job, but is commonly found in patients with jobs that deal with assembly lines.
It’s also three times more common in women in men. This may be because the carpal tunnel within the wrist is smaller in women.
If you find you’re experiencing any symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, see a doctor as soon as possible. Catching carpal tunnel early is crucial in order to prevent permanent damage to the median nerve.
When you visit the doctor, he or she will examine your hands, arms, shoulders, and neck to determine if your symptoms are consistent with those of carpal tunnel syndrome. You may also have X-rays taken.
Other tests include the Tinel’s sign test, which is where a doctor taps or presses on the median nerve in the patient’s wrist, and the Phalen’s sign test, which involves maximum flexing of the wrist.
After these tests have been conducted, electrodiagnostic tests are performed to confirm the findings of the previous tests. In electrodiagnostic testing, electrodes are placed on the hand and wrist and the doctor stimulates the nerve with a small electric shock. The electrodes capture the signal and identify how fast the signal is traveling. The signal travels faster in a healthy nerve, but slower and weaker in a damaged nerve. These findings will allow the doctor to determine if the nerve is damaged by carpal tunnel.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition that can be controlled if diagnosed early, so pay attention to any symptoms as they occur and contact your doctor as soon as possible.
If you’re considering undergoing surgery to correct carpal tunnel syndrome, download our e-book, How to Choose an Orthopaedic Surgeon.