Carpal Tunnel

Carpal Tunnel

What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

What are the non-surgical treatment options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

What are the surgical treatment options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Recovery After Surgery

The hands and wrists are two of the most frequently used parts of the body. Because of this, they are prone to pains and trauma. Several nerves, veins, muscles and tendons pass through the wrist to send and receive sensations and signals to the fingers of the hand.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

One of the nerves is called the median nerve. It passes through the carpal tunnel along with nine flexor tendons. The carpal tunnel is a tight space between the wrist bone and the band of fibrous tissues that support the wrist joint. If the tunnel gets irritated, swells or any of its connected parts change position, it can irritate the median nerve. This can cause pain, tingling, weakness or numbness in the hand, wrist and arm. These sensations may even affect the shoulder and neck. The pain can get worse at night because of different sleeping positions.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can happen to everyone, but occurs mostly to adults who are of working age. About 50 out of 1000 people in the US will experience the symptoms. Compared with other races, Caucasians are ones with the highest risk of being diagnosed with the condition. Women are also more prone to the syndrome, with a 3:1 ratio compared to men in the same age range (45-60 years old). Only about 10% of cases occur in people below 30 years old.

The exact cause of most Carpal Tunnel Syndrome cases are unknown. But they are most often associated with other conditions that put too much pressure on the median nerve. This includes hypothyroidism, obesity, trauma, arthritis and diabetes.

Physical or structural problems within the tunnel itself can also put pressure on the median nerve. Growths from outside the tunnel such as tumors, ganglions, lipomas, and vascular malformations also squeeze the median nerve and cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

A couple of years ago, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome became widely noticed in the media because of a supposed connection to computer use. This eventually gave way to the rise in popularity of ergonomic equipment, wrist rests, and alternative computer layouts (like the Dvorak layout).

While the media made much ado about the role of work-related repetitive wrist and hand motions in causing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, studies have shown associations, but not definitive causation.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set in place rules and regulations about disorders caused by cumulative (or repeated) trauma; and in some places, a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome diagnosis can mean time off work and disability compensation for employees.

The condition has resulted in an average of $30,000 in lost time from work and medical bills in the USA alone. However, a statement from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) has attempted to clear the debate by stating that work activities do not cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Scientific research does show that repetitive movements of the wrist and hand are result in pain and numbness but not specifically Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Similar symptoms can simply be due to problems in the biomechanics of the upper arms or tissue damage. This would mean proper posture and spine support can correct the issue without resorting to treating the problems in the carpal tunnel. Studies are ongoing as to what extent repetitive wrist movements and non-ergonomic work areas are actually causing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Some people are thought to be more prone to acquiring the condition. Local and systematic diseases, Psysiologic aging, and lifestyle issues can also be a factor. This includes Rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, injuries, amyloidosis, diabetes mellitus and acromegaly.