Evidence suggests that about 3% of women and 2% of men will be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome during their lifetimes.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder of the wrist and hand. The carpals (a tunnel of bones located in the wrist) house the median nerve and nine tendons which extend from the forearm into the hand. The carpal tunnel protects the median nerve, which controls some movement in the thumb and delivers sensation to the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger.
Repetitive flexing and extension of the wrist may cause a thickening of the protective sheaths that surround each of the tendons, which narrows the tunnel. When these tendons become swollen or inflamed, they press against the median nerve. Pressure from the swelling can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and fingers.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Symptoms
The primary symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are pain and numbness in the thumb, index, and middle fingers that often worsen at night and may radiate to the upper arm. Symptoms usually occur near the palm of the hand. Other symptoms include muscle weakness in the hand and wrist, tingling, and impaired reflexes.
In advanced cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, shrinkage or atrophy of the fleshy area at the base of the thumb may occur.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Diagnosis
Your doctor will conduct a variety of simple tests to measure muscle strength and sensation. He or she may also perform electromyographic or nerve conduction velocity testing to assess the severity of nerve damage.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Treatment
Carpal tunnel syndrome is initially treated with splints to immobilize the wrist and prevent it from flexing inward. Anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to help relieve pain. In some cases, occupational or physical therapy may be necessary to help rebuild muscle strength in the hand. In severe cases, surgery may be required to reduce the compression of the median nerve and help restore its normal function.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Resources
American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA 95677-0850
Tel: 916-632-0922 800-533-3231
National Chronic Pain Outreach Association (NCPOA)
P.O. Box 274
Millboro, VA 24460
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
1 AMS Circle
Bethesda, MD 20892-3675
Tel:: 301-495-4484 or Toll Free: 877-22-NIAMS (226-4267)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
1600 Clifton Road, N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30333
Tel: 800-311-3435 404-639-3311/404-639-3543
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
Tel: 800-321-OSHA (-6742)