Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition of the upper extremity that is known as the most common nerve compression to occur in the body. It affects approximately 3% of the population and can cause many debilitating symptoms that affect a person’s daily life. In fact, because of its commonality and significance of symptoms, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common causes of work time lost in the U.S., making this an important diagnosis to understand and be aware of. In an effort to build better awareness of this diagnosis, here are some commonly addressed questions regarding carpal tunnel syndrome:
David William Zeltser, MD
Stiff hands can interfere with quality of life, whether it creates just a mild annoyance or a severe limitation. Treatment depends on the cause; stiffness can originate with injury, arthritis, tendonitis, or a variety of other causes. A hand surgeon can help determine the underlying problem and implement an appropriate treatment plan that may involve home exercises, hand therapy, injections, and in some cases, surgery.
Hand surgeon Reid W. Draeger, MD answers your questions about fibromyalgia and how it may relate to the numbness in your hands.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes aches, pains, and tenderness all over the body. It is a long-term disorder that lasts for years or may even be lifelong. It is associated with fatigue and sleep problems. Fibromyalgia affects 2-4% of people. Women are affected more often than men, and it is most often diagnosed in middle age.
What causes fibromyalgia?
There are a number of theories about the causes of fibromyalgia, but no one is completely sure about the answer to this question. Researchers believe that a problem with the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) may be responsible for the condition. Fibromyalgia may run in families, but exact inheritance patterns are unclear. Though the pain experienced by people with fibromyalgia is real, it is not caused by an autoimmune, inflammation, muscle, or joint disorder.
If you’re reading this at work, you are probably worried that something you’re doing right now is slowly killing you. The accumulated years of slouched spinal posture, squinting at a screen and sitting (“the new smoking”) are sources of health paranoia for the 80 percent of the workforce whose jobs do not regularly require physical activity.
And then there’s typing.
The anxiety over long sedentary workdays is often crystalized in fears of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a wrist ailment that is so associated with repetitive hand activities that the image attached to the Google medical information profile for it is an intently focused woman in an open-office plan sitting at a desk with one hand on a mouse and the other typing.
LAST SUMMER, ANNA LEA Matysek of Sarasota, Florida, and her husband Jim set to work sprucing up their property. Some of the hardscaping that had been installed two decades prior had sunk into the soft, Gulf Coast soil, and it was time to break up that old concrete and elevate the flower beds. “We excavated these giant concrete pieces and then filled the trenches with rock and laid the pieces back down so that they’re now at surface level again,” Matysek says. The job took about two weeks and involved “a lot of digging, moving pieces of concrete and shoveling rocks.” By the end of the project, the property looked great, but Matysek was suffering from a classic case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports CTS “occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The carpal tunnel – a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand – houses the median nerve and the tendons that bend the fingers. The median nerve provides feeling to the palm side of the thumb and to the index, middle and part of the ring fingers (although not the little finger). It also controls some small muscles at the base of the thumb.”
Think of carpal tunnel syndrome as pins and needles on steroids. This health condition can cause persistent numbness, tingling, and burning in your fingers, wrists, and even your arms. Luckily, carpal tunnel treatment is precise enough that it has the potential to completely resolve the problem that fuels this syndrome in the first place. So here’s everything you need to know about carpal tunnel syndrome, including how to treat it if you’re experiencing symptoms.
1. Carpal tunnel syndrome all comes down to a single nerve.
The median nerve, which runs from your forearm into your thumb, index, and middle fingers, along with part of your ring finger, is nestled inside a canal known as the carpal tunnel. “When the median nerve doesn’t get enough blood flow, it makes your hand hurt and feel like it’s tingling and numb,” Leon S. Benson, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with the Illinois Bone and Joint Institutewho specializes in elbow, hand, and shoulder issues, tells SELF.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of the most common conditions of the hand and wrist. It is the result of pressure on a nerve in the wrist which leads to pain, numbness, tingling and a weak grip. Carpal Tunnel can prevent you from enjoying hobbies or daily activities that you enjoy. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, visit a hand surgeon to discuss potential treatment options for you.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be treated in a variety of ways, including:
- Changing the way you use your hands
- Wearing a wrist splint
- Steroid injection
Watch our 3-minute video above to hear directly from a hand surgeon about the causes, symptoms and treatment options for this condition. Or, go to www.HandCare.org to read about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, watch other videos, and view printable resources.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition affecting the hands. Patients typically say that they wake up at night with a feeling of pins and needles in their fingers, like their hand is asleep. They commonly shake their hands out to relive the symptoms. As the problem progresses, their hands will go numb when they drive, talk on the phone, or do their hair. As the problem becomes more severe, they will eventually report constant numbness in their fingers.
All of the nerves that go to the hand originate from the spinal cord at the neck level. The median nerve goes down the arm and crosses the wrist under a ligament called the transverse carpal ligament. This nerve then gives sensation to the thumb, index and long finger, as well as half the ring finger. Watch this 2-minute animation to learn more about how carpal tunnel affects your hand.