Learn more about CTS and what causes its symptoms.
In your wrist their are 8 bones that create a U shaped channel that holds a number of tendons as well as your meridian nerve. This channel is known as the carpal tunnel. Your median nerve gives you your sensation on the palm side of your first 3 ½ fingers.
If this nerve sensation is compressed or irritated as it travels through the carpal tunnel causes the condition known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). CTS is the most common nerve entrapment, it impacts roughly 3-5% of the general population. On average woman are affected two or three times more frequently than men. Carpal tunnel syndrome most often affects adults in the age range of 45-60.
CTS can be brought on by prolonged wrist flexing and/or repetitive wrist movements such as supermarket scanning, keyboard use, carpentry or assembly line work. Exposure to vibration or cold may aggravate the condition and cause it to worsen.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is typically found in your dominant hand but in some cases can impact both hands of the individual. Some of the common risk factors for being diagnosed with CTS include diabetes, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism, kidney disease and being short or overweight. Fluid retention during pregnancy is also commonly a way of developing carpal tunnel symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms that are brought on by developing CTS include numbness, tingling or discomfort on the palm side of your thumb, index, middle finger and half of your ring finger. The discomfort can at times move in the direction of your elbow. The symptoms usually begin when you are trying to fall asleep or waking up with numb hands but can progress to a constant annoyance.
Your symptoms are likely aggravated by gripping activities such as reading the paper, driving or painting. In the early going, your symptoms sometimes may be relieved by "shaking your hands out". You may also sometimes get the sensation of your hands tightening or swelling. In more serious cases, hand weakness can develop.
Compression of your median nerve in the carpal tunnel usually comes along with compression at a second or third site as well. Researchers call this "double crush syndrome." Common "double crush" partners for CTS include the spine or muscles in your neck, shoulder and forearm.
To help improve your condition, you should do your best to avoid activities that involve repetitive wrist flexion, i.e. pushups. Another activity that can aggravate the condition is grasping the handlebars on your bicycle. Our office may prescribe a special splint that keeps your wrist in a neutral or slightly extended position that will in some cases improve your nighttime symptoms. If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to permanent nerve damage. The American Academy of Neurology recommends conservative treatment, like the type provided in our office, before you go the route of a surgical procedure.