What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and How to Prevent it?

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and How to Prevent it?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the many conditions that can affect a person’s body movement because a nerve in their body is getting pinched. In this guide, we will understand what exactly happens to a person suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.


What is carpal tunnel syndrome?


Carpal tunnel is an opening in your wrist formed by the carpal bones on the bottom of the wrist and the transverse carpal ligament across the top of the wrist.

The syndrome is also known as median nerve compression because this condition occurs due to pressure of the median nerve where it passed through the carpel tunnel. The median nerve — which runs from your wrist to your hand— provides sensation to your thumb, index finger, middle finger, and part of the ring finger. When it gets affected due to carpal tunnel syndrome, the condition can manifest itself in the form of numbness (more prominent during the night), tingling, and weakness in the hand and arm. The condition also slows your nerve impulses and reduces coordination in your movement, especially the ability to use your thumb to pinch.

The very makeup of the wrist, repetitive movement, and underlying health issues can further aggravate the symptoms. Underlying conditions that can cause the syndrome include hypothyroidism, diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, and pregnancy. Fractures and dislocation of the wrist can also cause the condition.

If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can result in permanent nerve damage. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be made worse if the wrist is overextended repeatedly.


How is it diagnosed?


To determine the exact cause of the pain, your doctor will have to examine you to rule out the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be diagnosed by examining your medical history, a physical examination, and conducting imaging tests (like X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRI), electromyogram, and nerve conduction studies.


Risk factors


  • People with jobs that require repetitive wrist movement are at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Such jobs include manufacturing, assembly line work, typing, computer workers, construction work, etc.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is most frequently diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60.
  • Women are three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
  • Smoking, high salt intake, a sedentary lifestyle, and a high body mass index make a person more prone to developing this condition.


Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment


In the early stages, merely shaking the hands helps relieve symptoms. While mild cases can be treated with a combination of rest, oral medication, steroids, and exercises, surgery may be required in extreme cases.

If surgery is recommended by your doctor, an incision in the transverse carpal ligament will be made to increase the size of the tunnel. This way, your doctor will be able to decrease the pressure on the nerves and tendons that pass through the space. It may take between 24 to 72 hours to recover after the surgery.


Preventive tips


  • Put your hands and wrists in the right position when working.
  • Take breaks.
  • Keep your wrists straight.
  • Use a splint or brace for your wrist.
  • Avoid flexing and extending your wrists repeatedly.
  • Keep your hands warm.
  • Include wrist-strengthening exercises in your workout routine.