Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is often an uncomfortable and irritating condition. For example, many individuals who work at a desk may feel some numbness or tingling in their hand and wrist for a long period of time and try to ignore it. Suddenly, a piercing and sharp pain can shoot through the wrist and carry up the arm. If this is occurring on regular basis, the chances of it being a passing cramp are quite slim. It is more likely that you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This painful and irritating progressive condition is caused by the compression of a main nerve located in the wrist.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome happens when the median nerve, a main nerve that travels from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes squeezed or pressed at the wrist. The median nerve is responsible for sensations to the palm side of the fingers and thumb, but not the little finger. It also is responsible for certain impulses to some tiny muscles in the hand that enable the thumb and fingers to move.
The carpal tunnel refers to a rigid and narrow passageway of bones and ligaments at the base of the hand. This is where the tendons and the median nerve are housed. At times, thickening from certain swelling or irritated tendons can cause the median nerve to become compressed. The end result may be weakness, pain, or numbness in the hand and wrist area, radiating up the arm. Even though painful sensations could be an indication of other conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome is the most widely known and common cause of the entrapment of neuropathies; where the peripheral nerves in the body are traumatized or compressed.
What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Usually, the symptoms begin gradually. There is often a frequent itching numbness, tingling or burning sensation in the fingers and the palm of the hand, particularly in the middle fingers, index fingers and the thumb area. There are many carpal tunnel sufferers who report their fingers feel swollen and useless, even though little or no swelling is apparent. The symptoms generally appear first in one or both hands during the night time, as many people sleep with their wrists in a flexed position.
A person suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may wake up during the night and feel the need to shake out their wrist or hand. People may feel their symptoms worsen by experiencing tingling during the day. Decreased strength in the grip can make it hard to grasp small objects and form a grip or perform other manual chores. In some untreated or chronic cases, the muscles at the base of the thumb can even waste away. There are some individuals who have lost their ability to tell between cold and hot touch.
What are the Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is typically the result of numerous factors that increase pressure on the tendon and the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, as opposed to a problem with the nerve itself. Usually the disorder is due to a congenital predisposition, as in the carpal tunnel itself if smaller in certain people than in others. Certain other contributing factors include: injury or trauma to the wrist causing swelling, as a result from a fracture or a sprain; rheumatoid arthritis; repeated use of vibrating hand tools; overactivity of the pituitary gland; work stress; hypothyroidism; mechanical problems in the wrist joint itself; the development of a tumor or cyst in the canal; fluid retention during menopause or pregnancy and in certain cases, no particular cause can be identified.
Even though Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has the reputation for being caused by repetitive and forceful movements of the wrist and hand during leisure or work activities, there is little scientific evidence to support this. There are other disorders that have been associated with repeated motions performed in the course of other activities and normal work such as tendonitis and bursitis. As well, repetitive activity may also contribute to Writers’ Cramp.
Who Is At Risk of Developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Statistics show that women are 3 times more likely to develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome than men. This may simply be because the carpal tunnel itself is smaller in women than in men. Usually, the dominant hand is affected first and leads to the most severe pain being experienced. People who have metabolic disorders or diabetes which directly affect the nerves in the body and make then more susceptible to compression are also at high risk. Usually, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome only occurs in adults.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is particularly common in those people performing assembly line work, such as cleaning, fish packing, manufacturing, finishing and sewing, meat or poultry packing, and fruit sorting, however, developing this condition is not confined to people in a single job or industry. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is 3 times more common among people who assemble items as opposed to those who do data-entry lines of work.