Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful, progressive condition that occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed. Symptoms primarily include tingling, burning, and numbness in the hands and fingers, especially the thumb and forefinger.
It can happen at any age, but most often develops between the ages of 40-65 and its incidence increases with age. It can occur in one or both wrists. It occurs more often in women than in men. However, it can be cured. If not treated, it may deteriorate the quality of life.
Carpal tunnel syndrome – symptoms
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes discomfort in the hand and forearm. Symptoms progress over time and are mild at first, and can develop into severe pain.
The first symptoms often appear at night or when you wake up in the morning. Pain can also wake us up at night. The main symptoms are:
These symptoms most often appear in the thumb and two adjacent fingers, and may extend to the entire palm and arm to the forearm.
As the disease progresses, symptoms may last all day. A person with carpal tunnel syndrome may have difficulty clenching their fingers into a fist, as well as grasping objects. This means that it will be difficult for her to carry out everyday activities – dressing, washing, holding cutlery. Computer work can also be a huge challenge. If left untreated, thumb muscles can prevent a person from feeling a temperature change with that part of the body.
Symptoms appear and worsen after using the affected hand. The tingling, burning, and painful sensations may worsen if the arm or hand has been left in the same position for a long time.
Treatment aims to relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease by reducing the pressure on the median nerve. In people whose disease is mild, the condition may improve without treatment after a few months. The younger the person is, the faster he / she will regain full strength and fitness. In more serious cases, surgery may be needed.
How can you help yourself?
If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, you can reduce pain and discomfort by following these recommendations. Here are some tips:
- rest your hands and wrist to rest – the more your hand rests, the greater the chance of pain relief;
- make a cold compress – an ice pack helps with severe pain, but remember not to put the ice directly on the skin, but wrap it, for example in a cloth, and apply it like that;
- avoid sudden movements of your wrist – movements should be slow and careful. Take breaks between activities to avoid straining your wrist;
- wrist immobilization – try to immobilize the wrist on the rails or with a special wrist strap, which you can get at the pharmacy;
Most patients with mild symptoms will feel better after just a few weeks.
Your doctor may recommend injections of corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation. They are injected into the carpal tunnel. Corticosteroid tablets can also be used, but an injection is more effective. The pain may worsen initially, but will decrease after 1-2 days.
The second group of drugs are anti-inflammatory NSAIDs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Plus, they relieve pain and are readily available over the counter.
In serious situations where no medications are helping, your doctor may recommend wrist surgery. The carpal tunnel release procedure is a simple procedure and the patient does not have to stay in the hospital. The operation involves cutting the carpal tunnel to relieve pressure on the median nerve. As with any surgery, there is a risk of complications such as postoperative bleeding, infections, and nerve damage. However, such complications are very rare.
Carpal tunnel syndrome – diagnosis
First, the doctor will interview the patient and palpate the wrist. He may also order a blood test to see if there is inflammation. Your doctor may be tapping your wrist to check for tingling or numbness. He will also check if the patient can grasp things and if pain symptoms appear then.
Your doctor may order an x-ray to check that your symptoms aren’t due to another condition – a fracture or rheumatoid arthritis.
Carpal tunnel causes
The carpal tunnel is the narrow, stiff passage of bones and ligaments at the base of the hand. The canal also contains the median nerve and tendons. When the tendons become irritated, the canal can narrow and compress the median nerve, causing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can develop for several reasons. The most common cause is the frequent use of the wrist, for example when typing at work or kneading dough (cooks, sugar bowls).
Other reasons may be:
- stress at work;
- pregnancy, for example due to fluid retention;
- rheumatoid arthritis;
- wrist injury – dislocation, fracture;
- problems in the construction of the wrist;
- a cyst or tumor in the carpal tunnel;
- hyperfunction of the pituitary gland;
- swelling and inflammation of the tendons and the area around them;
- hormonal changes, for example, during menopause;
What professions are at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Certain jobs and activities at work may increase the risk of this syndrome. These include, among others:
- people working at the computer, typing a lot on the keyboard;
- farmers – especially those who milk the cows;
- assembly line workers working on the conveyor belt;
- workers using pneumatic tools;
- cashiers or price controllers using handheld scanners;
- mechanics using screwdrivers;
- cooks and bakers