Brief Outline Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a progressive affliction caused by direct trauma or repetitive overuse, which results in squeezing or compression of the median nerve at the wrist. The condition is three times more likely to affect women, largely due to occupational tasks such as keyboard work.
Anatomy and physiology
The carpal tunnel is a narrow, rigid structure composed of ligament and bone at the base of the hand. This nerve runs from the forearm to the hand and transmits sensation from the palm side of the thumb and fingers, as well as impulses to certain small muscles of the hand involved in movement. The tunnel surrounds the median nerve (which enters the hand between the carpal bones), and tendons. A narrowing of the tunnel may occur as a result of irritated or inflamed tendons, leading to pressure and compression of the median nerve, causing pain, weakness or numbness in the hand, which gradually radiates up the arm. The conditions is one of a variety of entrapment neuropathies – afflictions involving compression or trauma to peripheral nerves.
Cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Sporting activities that involve repetitive flexion and extension of the wrist, e.g. cycling, throwing events, racket sports, and gymnastics. Congenital predisposition. Trauma or injury including fracture or sprain. Occupational tasks.
Signs and symptoms
Burning, numbness or itching in the palm of the hand and fingers. Sensation of finger and wrist swelling. Decreased grip strength. Pain that may wake the individual during the night.
Complications if left unattended
Left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to decreased or absent sensation in some fingers and permanent weakness of the thumb, as muscles of the thumb degenerate. Proper sensation of hot and cold temperatures may also be diminished in untreated CTS cases.
- Oral Medicines
- Surgery if all conservative treatment fails
Rehabilitation and prevention
Halting the repetitive sport or activity and allowing for rest and rehabilitation time following diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome is essential. A bandage or splint may be used to stabilise the injured hand. Releasing the tension in the wrist and hand during sports and periodic exercises to retain mobility and retard stiffness in the hands may help prevent the onset of CTS.
Recurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome following treatment is rare, (except in cases of underlying disease, diabetes, endocrine disorders, etc.). The majority of patients properly attending to the injury recover completely.