Carpal Tunnel – symptoms and causes

The carpal tunnel is a passageway at the palm side of your wrist, made up of bones and ligaments.  Important structures like nerves and muscle passes through the tunnel, therefore, its health is very important to your hand’s normal functioning. 

Did you know, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common injuries, with around 2.7% of the population experiencing its symptoms at any given time?

Carpal Tunnel: main causes

When the tunnel is narrowed or the structures inside swell up, it compresses on the other structures, especially an important nerve called the median nerve, which affects your hand’s day to day function.  There are different reasons for our carpal tunnel to be compromised, here are some of the common reasons:

  1. Overusing your tendons – overusing the muscle tendons that passes through your carpal tunnel may cause them to swell up, and irritate other muscles and nerves
  2. Arthritis – certain type of arthritis could cause swelling in our wrist
  3. Pregnancy – changes in hormones could lead to swelling in some parts of our body, including our wrist
  4. Wrist fractures – it is entirely possible for bone fragments to press on the carpal tunnel and cause troubles for the structures inside

As we discussed, one very important structure that passes through the carpal tunnel is our median nerve.  The median nerve let us feel and move parts of our palm and fingers.  When it is compressed and irritated, it could cause tingling, numbness, and weakness in the hand.

Carpal Tunnel: the most common symptoms

The compression of the nerve may lead to:

  • Tingling and numbness in median nerve distribution of hand
  • Aggravation of symptoms/pain when
    • Grabbing objects
    • At night or early in the morning
  • Decreased in hand strength/weakness
    • Affecting holding objects, such as putting in keys and holding doorknobs

In long term diseases, it is not unusual to see muscle becoming smaller because of unuse.

Carpal Tunnel: treatment options

Whilst carpal tunnel syndrome sounds terrible and horrifying, there are actually a lot of ways we could help with the pain and symptoms.  Please consult with your GP or physiotherapist and discuss strategies such as splints, pain medicine and exercises that could help manage your pain.

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