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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The carpal tunnel—a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand—houses the median nerve and the tendons that bend the fingers. The median nerve provides feeling to the palm side of the thumb and to the index, middle and part of the ring fingers (although not the little finger). It also controls some small muscles at the base of the thumb.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

Symptoms of carpal tunnel usually start gradually and include:

  • Tingling or numbness: You may experience tingling and numbness in your fingers or hand. The thumb and index, middle or ring fingers usually are affected, but not your little finger. Sometimes there is a sensation like an electric shock in these fingers. The sensation may wake you from sleep. The numb feeling may become constant over time.
  • Weakness: you may experience weakness in your hand and even drop things because of it.
  • Pain: Wrist or palm pain is common with carpal tunnel syndrome.

It’s important for you to see a doctor if these symptoms interfere with your normal activities or your sleep. Permanent nerve and muscle damage may occur without treatment.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel

Risk factors include:

  • Anatomy: smaller carpal tunnels or bone fracture, dislocation or deformity
  • Gender: More common in females
  • Medical conditions: some conditions such as diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, menopause, thyroid conditions and kidney failure can increase your risk

Carpal Tunnel Prevention

To help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, you should minimize the stress you place on your hands and wrists.

  • Relax your grip
  • Avoid bending the wrist all the way down or up
  • Watch your posture
  • Take frequent breaks

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatments

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated both nonsurgically and surgically. Solutions include:

  • Wrist splinting
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Surgery, if symptoms are severe or don’t respond to other treatments

If you think you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, contact the orthopedic specialists at Summa Health for a consult.

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If your situation is an emergency, call 911.