Dr. Benjamin J. Jacobs, an orthopaedic surgeon, answers your questions about carpal tunnel syndrome.
Q: What is the carpal tunnel?
A: It is an actual tunnel made from the bones in your wrist and a tough ligament. The carpal tunnel nerve (median nerve) and several tendons run through the carpal tunnel. The thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger get their sensibility from the carpal tunnel nerve.
Q: What does carpal tunnel syndrome feel like?
A: It varies on the person. The most common feelings people tell me about carpal tunnel syndrome are numbness, tingling, pain, weakness, and clumsiness (frequently dropping things, difficulty with buttons or needle work). The numbness or tingling most often takes place in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. Very commonly, people wake at night or in the morning and have to “shake out” the numbness from their hand.
Q: How does carpal tunnel syndrome happen?
A: Anything that increases pressure on the carpal tunnel nerve can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Often, we don’t ever find out why someone develops carpal tunnel syndrome. Sometimes we see carpal tunnel syndrome in the setting of certain medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid problems, and pregnancy. Often it is not just one thing causing carpal tunnel syndrome, but a combination of factors.
- Tendonitis: Tendon inflammation is the most common wrist/hand complaint among golfers. Treatment can include rest, splint(s), ice and anti-inflammatory medicine.
- Wrist fractures: A fracture of the hook of the hamate, a small bone in the wrist, is a distinctive golf injury. It can be caused by hitting the club forcefully on the ground and may cause pain, numbness or tingling in the little or ring fingers. Treatment can include a splint, a cast or surgery.
- Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis): Golfer’s elbow is a painful tendonitis on the inner part of the elbow. It can be caused by repeated swinging of the club. Treatment can include rest, physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medicines.
- Lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow): Pain on the outer side of the elbow is common with lateral epicondylitis. It can be caused by repeated strain on the dominant arm. Treatment can include rest, physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medicines.
- Golf cart injuries: Unsafe use of golf carts can cause fall-outs and tip-overs, which may result in serious fractures to the hand, wrist, arm, elbow or shoulder. Use caution when driving a golf cart.
Learn more about golf injuries to the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder.