Carpal Tunnel syndrome is a problem that is related to the wrist but is normally felt in the hands. The hand and wrist are made of bones called carpals. There are eight total carpal bones and five metacarpal bones which make up the palm of the hand. Your wrist is fairly small, so the carpal bones are small as well. They are close together and held in place by ligaments, tendons, and muscles. The wrist has a nerve which travels in between the bones. When the nerve is subject to pressure, it leads to tingling and numbness in the hand.
Nerves travel throughout the body and help with feeling. The median nerve is the nerve that travels from the forearm to the hand. To get to the hand, it must travel through a tunnel in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This area is given this name because the carpals are the bones that make up the wrist. There is little space between them, but this space leaves enough room for a nerve to flow through. If there is inflammatio n or any breaks in the bones, it could put pressure on the nerve. The interesting thing is the pain is not necessarily felt in the wrist but in the fingers and hand.
The median nerve functions to control movement and the feeling in all of your fingers except your pinky finger. A totally different nerve controls the pinky finger. When there is pressure on the median nerve, you feel pain in the fingers. It almost feels like your whole hand is hurting. Some medical conditions have levels of severity. Levels of severity do not necessarily characterize carpal tunnel syndrome. Either you have pressure on the nerve, or you don’t. When nerve damage occurs, the issue is now related to nerve pain. Carpal tunnel syndrome has many different causes which all create the same symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can come from other health conditions or come from an injury. Rheumatoid arthritis is a common disease that causes carpal tunnel syndrome. The swelling from arthritis puts pressure on that nerve. There is already not a lot of room between the bones of the wrist, so joint swelling does not help. Thyroid problems are another issue that leads to carpal tunnel syndrome. Hypothyroidism, specifically, causes fluid build-up in the connective tissues which put pressure on the nerve. Diabetes is a condition that deals with processing sugar, but when it is not controlled, it damages the nerves in the body. Wrist injuries, typically result in a fall. Falling creates inflammation in the wrist and can strain or sprain the wrist. Wrist injuries may also be a result of a break in the wrist. Broken bones in the wrist may shift and pinch the nerve. Overuse of the wrist is another problem that causes carpal tunnel. Pregnancy is another cause. Changes in the body during pregnancy can affect the nerves and even lead to inflammation which can pinch the nerve.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include both tingling and numbness. The whole hand may also feel very weak. Most of the pain is felt in the fingers. You have felt your fingers and hands go numb, and your usual response is to shake it off until the feeling comes back. When the feeling does not come back, it could mean you have carpal tunnel syndrome. If every finger is hurting except your pinky finger, that is probably a sure sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. If your whole hand hurts, that could be a different problem. Carpal tunnel syndrome can happen among sports athletes but also those who have desk jobs. When you write and type all day, you are doing repetitive movements that can cause wrist damage. Athletes typically fall a lot and brace their falls with their wrist. Too much force on the wrist damages the structures of the wrist which leads to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome usually requires rest and the use of a brace. The brace helps to relieve pressure on the nerve. By avoiding activities that aggravate the median nerve, you will recover faster. If the source of your problem is related to your day job, you will have to wear your brace during the day. Icing the wrist is helpful and taking medication can rid you of the pain. If carpal tunnel syndrome is a result of inflammation, medication can also decrease the inflammation. When you do not treat the problem at all, you run the risk of nerve damage. Nerve damage goes beyond carpal tunnel syndrome. It leads to nerve pain which is much harder to treat.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is found in only about 3% of women and only 2% of men in the United States. It is more common amongst women than men, especially since pregnancy is one of the risks of carpal tunnel syndrome. As you age, it becomes harder to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. The best way to treat the condition is wearing a brace and adding ice. The situation usually heals on its own, but if it does not, you should seek medical help.
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