Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is one of the most common forms of neuropathy. It affects the median nerve in the forearm that regulates feeling and movement in the hands. Carpal tunnel results when the median nerve is compressed or damaged and causes feeling of pain, numbness and tingling in the hands.
Causes of CTS
The reasons for carpal tunnel syndrome are twofold: a swapping of the nerve or a condition that causes the tunnel to become smaller. Health issues leading to CTS include:
· Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis
· Repetitive hand motions such as typing
· Wrist injuries
· Smoking (decreases blood flow to the nerve)
Symptoms of CTS
CTS causes pain, weakness and tingling in the fingers and hands. Many people also experience pain in their arm between the elbow and hand. Symptoms typically show up in the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Interestingly enough, carpal tunnel syndrome does not affect the little finger as it is not controlled by the median nerve.
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms generally come on gradually. Many people first experience symptoms at night or while doing an activity that aggravates the nerve. Most find relief by stopping the repetitive motion and shaking their hand (s).
To diagnose CTS your health care provider will conduct a simple medical examination as well as ask a series of questions. Most doctors will ask if you suffer from a pre-existing medical condition such as diabetes, arthritis or hypothyroidism. They will also ask if you have recently suffered an acute injury which may have led to carpal tunnel syndrome.
The physical examination generally includes checking the arms, neck, hands, back and shoulders. If necessary, the health care provider may require you to undergo blood or nerve testing as well as diagnostic imaging.
Mild symptoms are typically treated at home. It is critical to begin treatment at the onset of symptoms in order to prevent long-term damage or more intrusive treatment options. At-home treatment includes:
Resting the arm as well as ceasing from activities that cause aggravation
· Icing the wrist for 10 minutes every couple of hours
· Taking anti-inflammatory drugs to stop the pain and reduce the swelling
· We wear a wrist splint at night as well as during activities where you are using your arms and wrists
· Create a workspace at the office with proper ergonomic equipment