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What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

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What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?


Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that causes numbness, tingling and numbness in the hands and fingers because of repetitive actions. These symptoms tend to develop gradually, affecting the thumb, index finger and middle finger.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by increased pressure on the nerve that crosses the front of the wrist, causing discomfort and pain. The median nerve, which runs through a tight tunnel in your tendons, allows you to bend your fingers. If this nerve is damaged due to compression, this will cause pain that it symptomatic of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome develop gradually and, therefore, it can take a while for someone to notice anything is wrong. However, any repetitive actions of the hand or wrist, such as typing, can mean your arm or hand is kept in the same position for a prolonged period – worsening symptoms.

Carpal tunnel syndrome effects your hands by increasing the difficulty you have carrying out certain tasks. You may find yourself regularly dropping objects and finding it difficult to fasten buttons or type without pain.

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Dull ache and discomfort in the hand, wrist or arm.
  • Dry skin, swelling or changes in skin colour of the hand.
  • Weakness of the muscles at the base of the thumb.
  • A prickling sensation like pins and needles.
  • Becoming less sensitive to touch.

If you're experiencing these symptoms daily, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve which controls the sensation and movement in the hands. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in your wrist which is made up of small bones and touch tissue which helps your fingers to bend.

Commonly, it isn’t known why the median nerve becomes compressed. However, there are some medical reasons why the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome is increased:

  • Strenuous or repetitive work with the hand.
  • A family history of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Pregnancy – up to 50% of women develop carpal tunnel syndrome while they are pregnant but tends to get better within three months of the baby being born.
  • Injuries to the wrist.

Other health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in women and you become more likely to develop it as you get older.

Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In some cases, carpal tunnel syndrome disappears without treatment. However, if it does not disappear on its own, it can be reduced through the introduction of simple self-care measures.

Let’s look at these treatment options in a little more detail:

Wrist Splints

Wrist splints are a great option for people with carpal tunnel syndrome and are often advised as they help to keep your wrist straight, reducing the pressure on the compressed nerve. Your doctor will usually advise you to wear a wrist splint at night for several weeks or months but with the help of a splint, your symptoms should start to improve in around three months.

Medication

There are a selection of medications that your doctor may prescribe you to help relieve your symptoms. The two most common are steroid injections and anti-inflammatory drugs. Both help to relieve symptoms and should help rid you of any pain.

Exercise Therapy

Often people find that doing hand and wrist exercises helps relieve carpal tunnel syndrome and provides some relief from symptoms. For more information on the best exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome, ask your doctor for advice.

Surgery

If your symptoms are severe and previous treatments have not worked for you, your doctor may suggest you have surgery to relieve the pain. Surgery may also be preferable if there is a risk of permanent nerve damage.

Carpal tunnel syndrome surgery will be carried out under local anaesthetic and takes approximately an hour and a half to complete. Your surgeon will make a cut to the carpal ligament to reduce the pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. This surgery is particularly effective and should help you regain movement in your hand.

How Can You Stop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from Returning?

To keep carpal tunnel syndrome from returning, it is essential you take care of your basic health. Be diligent in maintaining a healthy weight, don’t smoke, eat well and exercise regularly.

Some top tips for caring for your wrists and hands are:

  • Keeping your wrists in a neutral position.
  • Using your whole hand – not just your fingers – when holding objects.
  • When typing, keep your wrists straight, with your hands a little higher than your wrists and keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • If you can, switch hands often when you repeat movements to avoid repetitive strain.

Contact Us Today

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a painful disruption to your daily life but you do not need to live with it. Mcindoe has consultants who regularly deal with this condition and treat it successfully. If you have been experiencing any symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and you have tried numerous remedies which have been unsuccessful, contact us today to discover other treatment methods available to you. Early diagnosis and treatment is always more successful and the consultants here at McIndoe will be with you every step of the way.

If you would like to arrange a consultation, please call the Helpline on 0800 917 4922 for free and professional advice or submit a contact form here for more information.

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