Pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm side of the hand surrounded by bones and ligaments. Numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and arm can occur when the median nerve is compressed.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by the anatomy of the wrist, health problems, and possibly repetitive hand motions.
Treatment usually alleviates the tingling and numbness while restoring wrist and hand function.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome typically appear gradually and include:
Numbness or tingling
Tingling and numbness in the fingers or hand are possible symptoms. The thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers are usually affected, but not the little finger. You may experience an electric shock sensation in these fingers.
The sensation may travel up the arm from the wrist. These symptoms frequently occur while holding a steering wheel, phone, or newspaper, or they may awaken you from a deep sleep.
Many people “shake out” their hands to alleviate their symptoms. Over time, the numb sensation may become permanent.
You may experience hand weakness and drop objects. This could be due to numbness in the hand or weakness in the thumb’s pinching muscles, which are also controlled by the median nerve.
When should you see a doctor?
Consult your doctor if you have carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms that interfere with your normal activities and sleep patterns. Without treatment, permanent nerve and muscle damage can occur.
Pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome.
The median nerve travels from the forearm to the hand via a passageway in the wrist (carpal tunnel). Except for the little finger, it provides sensation to the palm side of the thumb and fingers. It also sends nerve signals to the muscles at the base of the thumb (motor function).
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by anything squeezing or irritating the carpal tunnel’s median nerve. A wrist fracture and the swelling and inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can narrow the carpal tunnel and irritate the nerve.
Multiple factors frequently cause carpal tunnel syndrome. A combination of risk factors may contribute to the condition’s emergence.
Carpal tunnel syndrome has been linked to several factors. Although they may not directly cause carpal tunnel syndrome, they may increase the risk of median nerve irritation or damage. These are some examples:
A wrist fracture or dislocation, as well as arthritis that deforms the small bones in the wrist, can change the space within the carpal tunnel, putting pressure on the median nerve.
Carpal tunnel syndrome may be more common in people with smaller carpal tunnels.
Women are more likely than men to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. This could be because women’s carpal tunnel areas are smaller than men’s.
Women with carpal tunnel syndrome may have smaller carpal tunnels than non-carpal tunnel syndrome women.
Nerve damage conditions
Diabetes, for example, increases the risk of nerve damage, including damage to the median nerve.
Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions can affect the lining around the tendons in the wrist, putting pressure on the median nerve.
Some research has found a link between carpal tunnel syndrome and the use of anastrozole (Arimidex), a breast cancer treatment.
Obesity increases the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Fluid in the body changes.
Fluid retention can cause pressure to build up within the carpal tunnel, irritating the median nerve. This frequently happens during pregnancy and menopause. Carpal tunnel syndrome caused by pregnancy usually resolves on its own after the pregnancy.
Other medical issues.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more likely in people with menopause, thyroid disorders, kidney failure, or lymphedema.
Factors in the workplace
Working with vibrating tools or on an assembly line that requires prolonged or repetitive wrist flexing may put harmful pressure on the median nerve or worsen existing nerve damage, especially if done in a cold environment.
However, the scientific evidence is mixed, and these factors have not been proven to be direct causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Several studies have been conducted to determine whether there is a link between computer use and carpal tunnel syndrome. Some evidence suggests that mouse use, rather than keyboard use, maybe the issue. However, there hasn’t been enough high-quality, consistent evidence to support extensive computer use as a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome, even though it may cause a different type of hand pain.
There are no proven strategies for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome, but the following methods can help reduce stress on the hands and wrists:
Relax your grip and reduce your force.
If your job requires you to use a cash register or a keyboard, press the keys gently. Use a large pen with an oversized, soft grip adapter and free-flowing ink for extended handwriting.
Take frequent, short breaks.
Stretch and bend your hands and wrists gently regularly. When possible, switch tasks. This is especially important if you work with equipment that vibrates or requires you to exert a lot of force. Even a few minutes every hour can add up.
Take note of your form.
Avoid completely bending your wrist up or down. The best position is a relaxed middle position. Keep your keyboard at or slightly below elbow height.
Enhance your posture.
Incorrect posture causes the shoulders to roll forward, shortening the neck and shoulder muscles and compressing the neck nerves. This can cause wrist, finger, hand pain and neck pain.
Replace your computer mouse.
Check that your computer mouse is comfortable and does not put a strain on your wrist.
Warm up your hands.
Working in a cold environment increases your chances of developing hand pain and stiffness. Put on fingerless gloves that keep your hands and wrists warm if you can’t control the temperature at work.