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What is carpal tunnel?

As the name suggests its tunnel in the wrist that is a passageway for the structures in the palm such as muscles, nerves and blood vessels. The boundaries of the tunnel are the carpal bones that form the base and the traverse carpal ligament that runs across the top.

The syndrome

The space in the tunnel is limited and any inflammation to the tendons can result in pressure being applied on the nerve present. If timely treatment is not sought the nerve gets squashed against the ligament present at the top of the tunnel.

Symptoms

Prolonged pressure on the median nerve can cause:

  • Numbness
  • Pins and needles
  • Pain, particularly at night
  • Darting pains from the wrist
  • Radiated or referred pain into the arm and shoulder
  • Weakness of the hand
  • The little finger and half of the ring finger are unaffected as the median nerve doesn’t supply it.

Causes

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by one of the ones listed below or often a combination of them:

  • Wrist fractures – the fragments can increase friction causing inflammation and thus lead to the syndrome.
  • Arthritis – various types of arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis, can cause inflammation and swelling.
  • Pregnancy – the hormones associated with pregnancy cause general fluid retention, which can compress the nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome triggered by pregnancy usually resolves soon after birth.
  • Overuse injury – the tendons in the carpal tunnel can become irritated and inflamed by awkward postures or repetitive hand movements. This is sometimes called an overuse injury. People who use their hands repetitively in their day-to-day activities, such as people doing assembly line work, may be more at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

​Treatment options

There are various options for to reduce these symptoms:

  • Rest from any activity that causes pain
  • Physiotherapy
  • Wearing a wrist splint, especially at night to maintain the length of the muscles
  • In case of the symptoms being excessive and unable to be brought under control with the above options. The following may be necessary
  • Cortisone injections or tablets to reduce the inflammation
  • Surgery can relieve the pressure. In this procedure a small incision is made to the transverse ligament to reduce the pressure on the median nerve.

Disclaimer: The information is for informative purposes and not to replace proper treatment. For more information or to book an appointment please contact Sydney Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic

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