The carpal tunnel ia an inch-long passageway in the wrist, made up of ligaments and tiny wrist bones. The carpal tunnel protects the median nerve and flexor tendons, which control the bending of your fingers and thumb. When the tunnel narrows, or the lubricating tissues surrounding the tunnel swell, there is an abnormal pressure on your median nerve. This causes tingling, numbness, pain or weakness in the hand and impedes the movement of your hand or entire arm. Read on to know more about this condition and how it can be treated or prevented.
Non-Occupational Causes: In addition to repetitive movements associated with specific tasks or occupations, carpal tunnel syndrome may occur due to:
- Hereditary factors, where an anatomically different carpal tunnel restricts the space of the median nerve.
- Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, menopause, hypothyroidism, or the use of oral contraceptives.
- Wrist fractures or dislocation due to accidents.
- Diseases such as arthritis, diabetes or gout.
Diagnosis: Medical practitioners diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome by performing certain tests that throw light on the damage to the median nerve. These may include:
- Tinel’s Test: Tapping the median nerve at the wrist for a response.
- Phalen’s Test: Putting the back of your hands together and bending the wrists to check the response.
- Electromyography: Electrode-based nerve transmission measurement to know more about the damage to the median nerve.
Prevention: From redesigning tools and workstations, to changing jobs or doing targeted wrist exercises, there are several ways to keep carpal tunnel syndrome at bay. You may also be able to prevent it by consciously avoiding potentially stressful wrist positions and movements. Research shows that women are more likely than men to suffer from this problem, because of the smaller size of their carpal tunnels.
Treatments: If you notice that the pain in your wrist or tingling or numbness in the fingers is coming in the way of important tasks or activities, visit a doctor for an early diagnosis and timely treatment. If this condition is not recognized or treated early, not only will your symptoms worsen, but your muscles or median nerve could face permanent damage. In severe cases, you may entirely lose function in your hand.
If you think you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome and would like to explore physical therapy options contact us at the location of your choice. You can also complete our online form and we will get back to you soon.