Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is pressure on the median nerve — the nerve in the wrist that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand. It can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hand and fingers.
The median nerve provides feeling and movement to the “thumb side” of the hand (the palm, thumb, index finger, middle finger, and thumb side of the ring finger).
The area in your wrist where the nerve enters the hand is called the carpal tunnel. This tunnel is normally narrow; so any swelling can pinch the nerve and cause pain, numbness, tingling or weakness. This is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is common in people who perform repetitive motions of the hand and wrist. Typing on a computer keyboard is probably the most common cause of carpal tunnel. Other causes include:
- Playing some musical instruments
- Playing sports such as racquetball or handball
- Using tools (especially hand tools or tools that vibrate)
- Working on an assembly line
- Clumsiness of the hand when gripping objects
- Numbness or tingling in the thumb and next two or three fingers of one or both hands
- Numbness or tingling of the palm of the hand
- Pain extending to the elbow
- Pain in the wrist or hand in one or both hands
- Problems with fine finger movements (coordination) in one or both hands
- Wasting away of the muscle under the thumb (in long-term cases)
- Weak grip or difficulty carrying bags (a common complaint)
- Weakness in one or both hands
You may try wearing a splint at night for several weeks. If this does not help, you may need to try wearing the splint during the day. Avoid sleeping on your wrists. Hot and cold compresses may also be recommended.
There are many changes you can make in the workplace to reduce the stress on your wrist:
Special devices include keyboards, different types of computer mouse, cushioned mouse pads, and keyboard drawers.
Someone should review the position you are in when performing your work activities. For example, make sure the keyboard is low enough so that your wrists aren’t bent upward while typing.
You may also need to make changes in your work duties or recreational activities. Some of the jobs associated with carpal tunnel syndrome include those that involve typing and vibrating tools. Carpal tunnel syndrome has also been linked to professional musicians.
Medications used in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Corticosteroid injections, given into the carpal tunnel area, may relieve symptoms for a period of time.
Carpal tunnel release is a surgical procedure that cuts into the ligament that is pressing on the nerve. Surgery is successful most of the time, but it depends on how long the nerve compression has been occurring and its severity.
* Source: Health Promotion Board