Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a very prevalent condition that affects the hand and wrist, causing pain, tingling, and numbness. It occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed or irritated. CTS can be caused by a variety of factors, and understanding its causes and risk factors is essential for proper diagnosis and management. In this blog, we will dive into the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, explore the risk factors associated with it, and discuss the treatment options available for individuals with this condition.
Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The wrist is a complicated joint composed of small bones called carpal bones, which form a tunnel-like structure known as the carpal tunnel. The median nerve, along with several tendons, passes through this tunnel and provides sensation to the index, thumb, middle, and half of the ring finger.
When the tissues surrounding the carpal tunnel become inflamed or swollen, the space inside the tunnel narrows, leading to compression of the median nerve. This compression can result in symptoms such as pain, tingling, and numbness, which are typically felt in the hand and fingers but can also radiate up the arm.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Various factors can lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are some common factors that causes carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Repetitive Hand and Wrist Movements: Engaging in repetitive hand and wrist movements that strain the wrist can boost the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Activities such as typing, using a computer mouse, gripping tools, or performing assembly line work can put strain on the wrist and contribute to the development of CTS. Occupational Factors: Certain occupations that require repetitive hand movements or prolonged use of the wrist can increase your risk of catching carpal tunnel syndrome. Jobs that involve repetitive gripping, twisting, or bending of the wrist, such as assembly line work, manufacturing, sewing, or meat packing, can contribute to the development of CTS.
- Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, and rheumatoid arthritis are known to affect nerve health and can contribute to the development of CTS. Diabetes, in particular, can affect the nerves and blood vessels, leading to nerve damage and increased susceptibility to nerve compression, including the median nerve in the wrist.
- Trauma or Injury to the Wrist: Trauma or injury to the wrist can also be a cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Fractures, sprains, or dislocations of the wrist can cause swelling and inflammation, leading to increased pressure on the median nerve. In addition, scar tissue that forms after a wrist injury or surgery can compress the median nerve and contribute to the development of CTS.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome vary and may include:
- Pain or discomfort: Pain or discomfort may be felt in the wrist, hand, and fingers. It may be sharp, burning, or throbbing in nature and may worsen at night or with certain activities that involve wrist movement.
- Tingling or numbness: Tingling or numbness in the index, thumb, middle, and half of the ring finger may be experienced. These sensations may come and go or persist for a prolonged period of time.
- Weakness: Weakness in the hand and a tendency to drop objects may be experienced due to the compression of the median nerve, which can affect the muscles in the hand.
- Loss of grip strength: Reduced grip strength and difficulty doing tasks that need fine motor skills, such as buttoning a shirt or gripping small objects, may be experienced.
- Radiating pain: Pain may radiate from the wrist up the arm, and in some cases, may even reach the shoulder and neck.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Options:
Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment depends on the severity of the condition and may involve a combination of conservative measures and medical interventions. Here are some common treatment options for CTS:
- Rest and Modification: Resting the affected hand and avoiding activities that worsen the symptoms can help ease the pain and discomfort associated with CTS. Modifying activities that involve repetitive wrist movements or prolonged use of the wrist, such as taking breaks, using ergonomic tools, and practising proper hand and wrist posture, can also help reduce the risk of further aggravating the condition.
- Wrist Splints: Putting on a wrist splint at night or during activities that trigger symptoms can help retain the wrist in a neutral position, relieving pressure on the median nerve and reducing symptoms.
- Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be recommended to reduce pain and inflammation associated with CTS. Corticosteroid injections can also be effective in reducing inflammation and relieving symptoms in more severe cases.
- Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can be beneficial in managing carpal tunnel syndrome. A therapist can provide exercises and stretches to improve wrist strength and flexibility, as well as educate on proper posture and body mechanics to reduce strain on the wrist.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Making lifestyle changes such as losing weight if overweight, managing underlying health conditions like diabetes or hypothyroidism, and reducing activities that exacerbate symptoms can help in managing carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Ergonomic Changes: Making ergonomic changes in the workplace, such as using an ergonomic keyboard, mouse, and chair, adjusting the height of the desk, and taking regular breaks to stretch and rest the wrist can help reduce the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome or alleviate symptoms in those already affected by it.
- Hand Exercises: Specific hand exercises can help strengthen the muscles in the hand and wrist, improving grip strength and reducing symptoms of CTS. A therapist or healthcare provider can recommend appropriate exercises based on the severity and individual needs of the condition.
- Surgical management. If patient’s sign and symptoms didn’t improve after the non-operative treatment then surgery would be the option by doing Carpal tunnel release. In this surgery the roof of the Carpal tunnel is incised in order to decompress the tunnel. It’s a very simple surgery, takes less then half an hour and can be done in regional anaesthesia. Patient can be discharge on the same day.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that affects the wrist and hand, causing pain, numbness, weakness, and other uncomfortable symptoms. It can be caused by various factors such as repetitive hand and wrist movements, hormonal changes, genetics, obesity, and other health conditions.if non operative treatment fails to improves the sign/ symptoms then a simple day care surgery can be done.