Know the basics
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is an ailment affecting the wrist and hand. The nerve controlling feeling and movement in the wrist and hand involved in carpal tunnel syndrome is the median nerve. It lies in a passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. CTS may causes tingling or numbness in your hand and wrist or a sharp, piercing pain shoots through the wrist and up your arm.
How common is carpal tunnel syndrome?
CTS is common in some occupations such as transcriptionists, cashiers, butchers, and janitors. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
The common signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are pain, tingling, numbness, and weak grip (a tendency to drop something) in the wrist, hand, and fingers. Symptoms often improve when the hand is wrung or shaken. Some people feel discomfort in the upper arm and shoulder. Symptoms often worsen at night and can interfere with sleep.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor, especially if the symptoms affect your daily routine. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Know the causes
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
In CTS, the tunnel becomes narrow because of swelling in the wrist. The smaller tunnel squeezes the median nerve, which causes pain and other symptoms.
Moving the hand and wrist repeatedly in the same way, such as typing, writing, and using a computer mouse, can cause CTS.
Pregnant women often get CTS because their hormones change and they retain fluid. Several illnesses, for example, muscle and bone disorders, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), and diabetes, can also increase risk of CTS.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for carpal tunnel syndrome?
There are many risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome, such as:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome is generally more common in women.
- Nerve-damaging conditions such as diabetes increase your risk of nerve damage, including damage to your median nerve.
- Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, can affect the tendons in your wrist, exerting pressure on your median nerve.
- Alterations in the balance of body fluids.
- Certain conditions, such as menopause, obesity, thyroid disorders and kidney failure, may increase your chances of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Workplace factors such as working with vibrating tools or on an assembly line.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?
The doctor examines the wrist, and to cause symptoms, will tap it over the median nerve and will bend it and hold it there for a few seconds. Special tests (EMG) to check the wrist’s nerves and muscles may also be done.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?
Treatment involves two steps. The first is a lifestyle change: stop doing whatever caused CTS. This change may be hard if it involves a job, but talk to your employer. Sometimes simple changes, such as using a wrist pad while typing so your wrist is in a better position, help. A physical therapist or occupational therapist can suggest ways to do things differently.
The second step is to take pressure off the median nerve. Medicine, wrist splints, and surgery are usually used. A wrist splint at night is best, but some people wear a splint during the day. Pills give relief for a short time by decreasing inflammation. Medicine can also be injected into the wrist and can help for a longer period.
Surgery to make more room for the nerve is the best way to reduce pressure on the nerve when other treatments are ineffective. With surgery, you usually get better quickly, but you should rest your wrist for at least 6 weeks to promote healing and avoid new symptoms.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage carpal tunnel syndrome?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Change the behaviors that caused CTS.
- Take pills as directed by your doctor.
- Delay getting treatment. If muscle wasting occurs, chances of full recovery are less.
- Briefly take off a wrist splint, if you wear it during the day, to exercise your wrist and hand. Do not completely stop using and exercising your hand.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
Carpal tunnel syndrome. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/basics/risk-factors/con-20030332
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Download version.
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Print edition. Page 601.