Do you have tingling fingers and a pain shooting up to your shoulder? Do you find it harder to grip small objects? You might think you're having a heart attack or, simply, getting older. Instead, you may have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or CTS.
The list below contains information about CTS causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention. The list is categorized, and the links can lead you to a vast store of online information about CTS issues. In most cases, with recognition of symptoms and preventative measures, you may be able to avoid permanent damage to your wrist or surgery.
Causes of CTS
- When the carpal tunnel is swollen or the tissue changes position in the wrist area, it presses on the median nerve. This swelling causes some pain, but it is more known for tingling and numbness of the thumb, index and middle fingers.
- Many individuals who are prone to CTS are those with a congenital predisposition to a smaller carpal tunnel in the wrist area where the median nerve is located.
- Some physical conditions can cause CTS such as obesity, pregnancy, hypothyriodism, arthritis, wrist fracture and diabetes.
- It is thought that people with thin wrists also are prone to CTS.
- People who experience pain and difficulties from this decreased carpal tunnel syndrome include assembly line workers or people who perform repetitive tasks (like typing).
- Some rare diseases such as multiple myeloma, Waldenstrom's macroglobulinemia, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma can cause deposition of abnormal substances in and around the carpal tunnel, leading to nerve irritation or damage.
- Hobbies such as gardening, needlework, golfing and canoeing can sometimes bring on the symptoms.
- Addictions, such as smoking and alcoholism also can lead to CTS.
- Women are three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
- Some early symptoms of CTS include numbness or tingling in the thumb, index and middle or ring fingers, but not in your little finger. This sensation often occurs while holding a steering wheel, phone or newspaper. As the disorder progresses, the numbness may become constant.
- Other symptoms include pain, or an "electric shock" feeling that radiates from your wrist up to your shoulder or down into your palm or fingers.
- You may also experience weakness in hand strength and a tendency to drop objects or to be unable to open jar or bottle lids.
- Many times, this pain or numbness may occur during sleep, causing the CTS victim to awake frequently during the night.
- If you leave the condition untreated, never and muscle damage may occur.
- Tapping over the median nerve at the wrist may cause pain to shoot from the wrist to the hand. This is called the Tinel's sign. Bending the wrist forward all the way for 60 seconds will usually result in numbness, tingling, or weakness. This is called the Phalen's test. These tests, however, may be insignificant to CTS.
- Initial treatment usually involves resting the affected hand and wrist for at least two weeks to avoid activities that caused the pain.
- Sometimes, the wrist may be immobilized in a neutral wrist splint to avoid further damage.
- Your doctor may prescribe nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or other pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicine such as prednisone (mouth) or lidocaine (injected into the wrist).
- Since the median nerve impingement is often caused by soft tissue swelling and inflammation in the carpal tunnel, acupuncture is a treatment option to consider, especially for the those in the early stages of CTS.
- Recurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome following initial treatment is rare, as the majority of patients recover completely.
- Surgery may be recommended for severe CTS cases or where nerve or muscle damage is irreparable.
- Evaluate your daily routine to discover how you might develop CTS. Avoid any repetitive tasks by varying tasks or by taking frequent breaks.
- During these breaks, you can perform stretching exercises.
- Wear splints — especially at night or while typing — to help keep your wrist straight, and use correct posture and wrist position.
- Wearing fingerless gloves can help keep your hands warm and flexible, which also helps to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome.