Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Or CTS?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – CTS is a disorder causing numbness, pain, and a tingling sensation on the hand and arm. It occurs when the median nerve traveling through the wrist becomes compressed or damaged. The median nerve regulates the movement of the thumb and fingers. When the tunnel narrows and the flexor tendons swell, it creates pressure on the median nerve, resulting in pain and numbness. Usually, the condition worsens over time, so an early diagnosis is essential. Avoiding a few activities and wearing a wrist splint provides relief from pain.

Exertion of the median nerve can worsen the symptoms and cause nerve damage. The structure of the wrist, underlying conditions, and repeated activities involving the hand lead to CTS. The treatment provides relief from the symptoms and restores the motion of the hand and wrist.

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – CTS is a disorder causing numbness, pain, and a tingling sensation on the hand and arm. It occurs when the median nerve traveling through the wrist becomes compressed or damaged.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - CTS:

The commonest symptoms of CTS are:

· Feeling of weakness when gripping objects with one or both hands

· Numbness and pain in one or both hands

· Burning sensation or tingling in the fingers, especially the index finger, middle finger, and thumb.

· Feeling of pins and needles on the fingers

· Pain and numbness moving up to the upper arm

· Wrist pain disturbing sleep at night

· Feeling resembling a shock in the arm and fingers

· Dropping things due to numbness or weakness in the hand or fingers

Initially, the numbness in the fingers is more common at night, and the tingling sensation traveling through the hands to the shoulder occurs in the morning. The symptoms flare up during the day when trying to grip or hold an object. Normal activities, such as driving or reading a book, may seem difficult. Often, shaking out the hands early in the morning helps, but the numbness may remain. The symptoms of CTS may be similar to various other conditions, so it is necessary to see a specialist for proper diagnosis.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – CTS:

CTS occur due to several factors, and studies reveal that older people and women are prone to develop this condition. The causes of the syndrome are:

· Heredity

  Some people may have a small or narrowed carpal tunnel that gives less space to the nerve, and the trait is common in families.

· Position of hand and wrist

  Physical activities causing the hand and wrist to extend or massive flexion for a prolonged period can pressure the nerve.

· Repeated use

  Using the same hand and wrist for activities over a period can cause the tendons in the wrist’s tendons to swell and pressure on the median nerve.  Small and grasping   movements involving the hands, such as typing on the keyboard, sports or physical activities cause CTS.

· Underlying conditions

  Bone and joint diseases like osteoarthritis, arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis can trigger the condition.

· Metabolic and hormonal changes

  Hormonal or metabolic changes during pregnancy, menopause and thyroid imbalance can lead to the syndrome.

· Diabetes

  People with type 2 diabetes and fluctuating sugar levels may get CTS.

· Wrist injuries

  Injuries of the wrist causing strain, sprain, dislocation swelling, and inflammation are prone to getting this syndrome.

When to see a physiotherapist for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – CTS:

For people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – CTS, physical therapy can relieve numbness and pain. Therapy also helps restore normal movements in the hand, arm, or wrist without going into surgery. When the pain and numbness are severe, the therapist administers a steroid injection into the carpal tunnel and the effect can last for several weeks. Once the pain eases, the therapist begins with exercises of the wrist. Some of the exercises are:

· Wrist bend

· Wrist flex

· Wrist lift

· Wrist stretch with weight

· Finger bend

· Squeezing hand

Risks of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – CTS

Lifestyle factors such as smoking, sedentary lifestyle, high salt intake, and high BMI and jobs in manufacturing, keyboard operations, construction, and assembly line work increase the risk of CTS. The condition continues to damage the median nerve, causing permanent disability and impairment. Some people may also develop chronic pain in the wrist and hand.

How to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – CTS?

There is no definite way of preventing CTS but staying cautious during work can help. The preventive methods are:

· Taking a break between work

· Stretching the hands

· Trying softer touch

· Sleeping with wrists positioned as straight

· Avoid extending or curling the wrists repeatedly

· Avoid grasping any object with the wrist in a flexed position

Treatments of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – CTS:

The treatment options for CTS depend on the severity of the condition, and here is what you may need:

· Changes in lifestyle

 When repetitive options cause the symptoms, taking breaks more often is the solution.

· Lessening movement

  Wearing a splint on the wrist prevents movement, reduces pressure on the median nerve and relieves the tingling feeling or numbness.

· Exercises

  Stretching and strengthening exercises help people with symptoms to feel better. Visiting a physical therapist for the exercises is the right option.

· Anti-inflammatory medication

  The doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or shots of steroids to reduce swelling.

  Surgery to increase the size of the carpal tunnel is the last option to treat CTS when all the other treatments fail.

Related conditions:

People with autoimmune diseases may have CTS when the immune system of the body affects the tissues. Gout and damaged joints, muscles, and bones may also lead to CTS. Those with Down syndrome, amyloidosis, tumor on the median nerve, and acromegaly are more susceptible to CTS.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What can you mistake for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
You may mix up the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and CTS at an early stage. The distribution of pain is what differentiates CTS from rheumatoid arthritis.
2. Can CTS go away without treatment?
Once the symptoms manifest, CTS does not resolve on its own. Preferably, the intervention of a physical therapist helps.

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