The carpal tunnel is a passage in the wrist through which tendons and nerves pass from the forearm to the hand. The median nerve, which provides feeling to the thumb, index, and middle fingers, runs through the carpal tunnel.
Any inflammation or narrowing of the tunnel may cause nerve irritation, as the carpal tunnel is normally quite narrow to begin with.
Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome
There are many causes of carpal tunnel syndrome but the most common is overuse irritation to the nerve and tendons. Other factors such as arthritis and fractures near the wrist, diabetes, and pregnancy may also cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
• Burning, tingling, or numbness of the thumb, index, and middle fingers
• Symptoms may be greater when waking up
• Difficulty making a fist and gripping objects
In addition to X-rays, nerve tests may be performed to assist in the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Following these simple tips can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other overuse injuries of the wrist and hand:
• Avoid sustained extreme wrist positions
• Keep your wrist in a "neutral" position
• Support your forearm while using a keyboard
• Avoid excessive direct pressure on the palm
• Avoid excessive gripping
• Take frequent breaks and move your wrist and hand to different positions
When to seek medical attention:
• Symptoms do not go away with periods of rest
• Symptoms interfere with daily work and recreational activities
• Activity modification
• Anti-inflammatory medication
• Use of a wrist splint
• Cortisone injection
Surgery may be necessary in patients who do not improve with non-surgical care. Carpal tunnel surgery involves cutting a ligament in the wrist to relieve pressure on the nerve within the carpal tunnel. Your physician can provide you with more details concerning your recovery after surgery.