Usually afflicting people between the ages of 40 and 60, especially girls, carpal tunnel syndrome causes tingling and pain in the hand and forearm due to soft tissue swelling and compaction of a nerve at the wrist.

The carpal tunnel is the narrow space formed by the bones of the wrist (carpal bones) and the powerful ligament that lies over them Nerves and tendons run by means of this tunnel. In carpal tunnel syndrome, the median nerve, which controls some hand muscles and sense in the thumb, index and middle fingers, is compressed where it passes through the tunnel. This causes painful tingling in the hand, wrist and forearm and frequently influences both hands. In girls the menopause certainly plays a part. Work including repetitive hand motions is a risk factor.

What Are The Causes?

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs because the soft tissues within the carpal tunnel swell and press on the median nerve at the wrist. Such swelling may happen during pregnancy, as part of rheumatoid arthritis and after a wrist fracture. It may be a characteristic of RSI.

In most instances there isn’t any clear cut cause.

What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms primarily influence the regions of the hand supplied by the median nerve, that’s the thumb, the index and middle fingers, the interior side of the ring finger, and the palm of the hand. Symptoms initially contain:

  • burning and tingling in the hand
  • pain in the wrist and up the forearm.
  • As the condition worsens, other symptoms may slowly appear including: numbness of the hand, weakened grasp, wasting of some hand muscles, especially at the base of the thumb.

Symptoms are generally more intense at night, and pain may interrupt sleep. Shaking the affected arm may temporarily alleviate symptoms, but the numbness may become constant if left untreated.

What Might Be Done?

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may be relieved temporarily by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or by wearing a wrist splint. Resting the hand and arm on a pillow regularly brings relief. Sometimes a corticosteroid injection under the ligament may reduce swelling. If symptoms continue or recur, operation may be urged to cut the ligament under local anaesthetic and release pressure on the nerve. After operation, most folks have no additional symptoms.

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