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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment & Prevention

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that is caused when the median nerve, a branch of the nerves that supply most of the superficial and deep flexors in the forearm, thenar and lumbrical muscles, gets compressed when passing to the hand. The palm side of your hand is termed as the carpal tunnel.

It is the median nerve that effectuates the ability to feel to your index finger, thumb, long finger and part of the ring finger and supplies the impulse which then passes onto the thumb. Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm. It can occur in one hand or both the hands[1] .

In most cases, carpal tunnel syndrome gets worse over time and can lead to nerve damage and worsening symptoms[2] .

Causes Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

It is caused by pressure on your median nerve, which can be due to the swelling caused by inflammation. Some of the most common causes or conditions that are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome are as follows[3] :

  • High blood pressure
  • Fluid retention from pregnancy or menopause
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Diabetes
  • Fractures or trauma to the wrist
  • Autoimmune disorders (such as rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Positioning of your wrists while using your keyboard or mouse
  • Continuous usage of hand tools or power tools
  • Activities that require repetitive hand movements such as typing on a keyboard, playing the piano etc.

In some people, it can develop as heredity being a cause.

Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The signs of the condition develop slowly with a burning sensation that also causes numbness, pain or tingling. Some of the first signs of carpal tunnel syndrome are that your hand may fall asleep too often, making it difficult to hold onto things[4] .

The other symptoms of the condition are as follows[5] :

  • Pain and a burning sensation that travels up your arm
  • Tingling, numbness and pain in your thumb and the first three fingers of your hand
  • Weakness in hand muscles
  • Wrist pain at night that interferes with sleep

Risk Factors Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Gender: Women are three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
  • Age: The condition is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60 [6] .
  • Lifestyle: Certain lifestyle factors and habits such as high salt intake, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and a high body mass index (BMI) can increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Diseases: Diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis are risk factors of the condition.
  • Occupation: Jobs that require repetitive wrist movement such as construction work, manufacturing and works that require keyboard works also increase the risk [7] .

Diagnosis Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

To medically examine and understand the condition, the doctor will go through your medical history and will follow up with a physical examination and tests.

The physical examination is comprised of a detailed evaluation of your hand, wrist, shoulder, and neck to check for any other causes of nerve pressure. The sensation to the fingers and strength of the muscles in your hand will also be checked[8] [9] .

Diagnostic tests such as nerve conduction studies will help the doctor measure the conduction speed of nerve impulses.

Treatment For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Medical care provided for the condition depends on the severity of the symptoms and the pain levels. From yoga to surgery, the treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome are plenty [10] .

Some of the treatment options for the condition are as follows [11] :

  • Wrist braces
  • Steroids
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Surgery

If your work involves using your hands extensively, take a break for 10-15 minutes every hour and stretch your hands and pay attention to hand posture. Apart from that, avoid activities that overextend your wrist [12] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Gelberman, R. H., Hergenroeder, P. T., Hargens, A. R., Lundborg, G. N., & Akeson, W. H. (1981). The carpal tunnel syndrome. A study of carpal canal pressures. The Journal of bone and joint surgery. American volume, 63(3), 380-383.
  2. [2] Phalen, G. S. (1972). The Carpal-tunnel Syndrome: Clinical Evaluation of 598 Hands. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research (1976-2007), 83, 29-40.
  3. [3] Armstrong, T. J., & Chaffin, D. B. (1979). Carpal tunnel syndrome and selected personal attributes. Journal of occupational medicine.: official publication of the Industrial Medical Association, 21(7), 481-486.
  4. [4] Silverstein, B. A., Fine, L. J., & Armstrong, T. J. (1987). Occupational factors and carpal tunnel syndrome. American journal of industrial medicine, 11(3), 343-358.
  5. [5] Padua, L., Coraci, D., Erra, C., Pazzaglia, C., Paolasso, I., Loreti, C., ... & Hobson-Webb, L. D. (2016). Carpal tunnel syndrome: clinical features, diagnosis, and management. The Lancet Neurology, 15(12), 1273-1284.
  6. [6] Cooke, M. E., & Duncan, S. F. (2017). History of carpal tunnel syndrome. In Carpal tunnel syndrome and related median neuropathies (pp. 7-11). Springer, Cham.
  7. [7] Aboonq, M. S. (2015). Pathophysiology of carpal tunnel syndrome. Neurosciences, 20(1), 4.
  8. [8] Stocker, R. L., & Macheiner, A. (2016). Capitate Non-Union: One of the Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Handchirurgie, Mikrochirurgie, plastische Chirurgie: Organ der Deutschsprachigen Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur Handchirurgie: Organ der Deutschsprachigen Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur Mikrochirurgie der Peripheren Nerven und Gefasse: Organ der V.., 48(3), 171-174.
  9. [9] Newington, L., Harris, E. C., & Walker-Bone, K. (2015). Carpal tunnel syndrome and work. Best practice & research Clinical rheumatology, 29(3), 440-453.
  10. [10] Kleopa, K. A. (2015). Carpal tunnel syndrome. Annals of internal medicine, 163(5), ITC1-ITC1.
  11. [11] Harris-Adamson, C., Eisen, E. A., Kapellusch, J., Garg, A., Hegmann, K. T., Thiese, M. S., ... & Silverstein, B. (2015). Biomechanical risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome: a pooled study of 2474 workers. Occup Environ Med, 72(1), 33-41.
  12. [12] Maeda, Y., Kim, H., Kettner, N., Kim, J., Cina, S., Malatesta, C., ... & Libby, A. (2017). Rewiring the primary somatosensory cortex in carpal tunnel syndrome with acupuncture. Brain, 140(4), 914-927.

Story first published: Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 19:00 [IST]
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