You’re working at your desk, trying to ignore the tingling or numbness you’ve had for months in your hand and wrist. Suddenly, a sharp, piercing pain shoots through the wrist and up your arm, into your neck.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome? Missed diagnosed more than you think!
True carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (although not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. The carpal tunnel – a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand houses the median nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the median nerve to be compressed. The result may be pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm.
Symptoms usually start gradually, with burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb and the index and middle fingers. Some carpal tunnel sufferers say their fingers feel useless and swollen, even though little or no swelling is apparent. The symptoms often first appear in one or both hands during the night, since many people sleep with flexed wrists. As symptoms worsen, people might feel tingling during the day. Decreased grip strength may make it difficult to form a fist, grasp small objects, or perform other manual tasks. In chronic and/or untreated cases, the muscles at the base of the thumb may waste away. Some people are unable to tell between hot and cold by touch.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is often the result of a combination of factors that increase pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel, rather than a problem with the nerve itself. The carpal tunnel is simply smaller in some people than in others. Other contributing factors include trauma or injury to the wrist that cause swelling, such as sprain or fracture; over active pituitary gland; hypothyroidism; rheumatoid arthritis; mechanical problems in the wrist joint; work stress; repeated use of vibrating hand tools; fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause; or the development of a cyst or tumor in the canal. Many times it is due to the tightness in the neck and chest muscles which may be clamping down on the brachial plexus nerve bundle. Fascial restrictions of the body WILL cause many of the same symptoms.
At the workplace, workers can do on-the-job conditioning, perform stretching exercises, take frequent rest breaks, and use correct posture of the back, neck, head, chest, arms and wrist. Employers can develop programs in ergonomics, the process of adapting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of workers.
Before you resort to surgery, make sure you actually have carpal tunnel syndrome. The source of your problem may be far simpler than your doctor thinks it is. Your hands, wrist pain and numbness may have nothing whatsoever to do with a problem with your wrist. Before you submit yourself to surgery or taking a long regimen of drugs, consider myofascial release and body work!