Aching wrists or tingling palms could be more than simple fatigue after a long day of typing on a computer — they may be a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. Understanding the causes and effects of carpal tunnel may help you reduce your risk of this painful condition.

What Is Carpal Tunnel?

Carpal tunnel is a condition in which the median nerve becomes compressed as it passes into the hand. The median nerve, traveling along the palm side of the hand, supplies sensation to your thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. It also helps to activate the muscle in your thumb. When the nerve becomes compressed, you may experience carpal tunnel symptoms.

Common Carpal Tunnel Symptomscarpal tunnel

The majority of carpal tunnel symptoms occur along the path that the median nerve follows through the hand. You may notice some of the following symptoms:

  • A hand that frequently falls asleep
  • Dropping objects more frequently than usual
  • Numbness, pain or tingling in the thumb and first three fingers
  • Pain or a burning sensation that shoots up the arm
  • Wrist pain at night, which may prevent you from sleeping
  • Weakness in your hand muscles

Causes of Carpal Tunnel

The most common cause of compression of the median nerve is swelling in the wrist or hand. This could be caused by an underlying medical issue, or it could be due to repetitive motion. For example, medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid problems, high blood pressure or rheumatoid arthritis are often associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. This is because these medical conditions cause inflammation, swelling and restriction of blood flow.

In other cases, repetitive motion triggers carpal tunnel syndrome. This could be any activity that uses the wrist, such as playing the piano, typing or using power tools.

Prevention and Treatment of Carpal Tunnel

The best way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome is to adjust your lifestyle to reduce your repetitive activities. Learning good typing posture and avoiding over-extension
of the wrist can decrease your risk. Once you have carpal tunnel syndrome, there are several possible treatments. Physical therapy may help to reduce pain while other patients may need carpal tunnel surgery to fully restore their functioning.

Of course, there are several conditions that can trigger hand pain, making it important to get an accurate diagnosis right away. Our orthopedic specialists are skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of hand and wrist conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to alleviate your carpal tunnel pain.

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