Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerves are compressed as it passes through the wrist. This can be due to pressure over the median nerve or repetitive wrist flexion, such as typing. Prolonged use of vibrating equipment (e.g. drills) may also contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Wheelchair athletes, rock climbers and cyclists are at increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome due to the demands of their sport. In addition, pregnant women and people affected by diabetes mellitus are also associated with an increased risk of developing the condition. Women are more commonly affected than men.
With carpal tunnel syndrome, you may experience numbness, tingling or pain in the hands including the thumb and the first few fingers. Symptoms may be worse at night and wake you from sleep.
Wearing a specialised wrist splint for carpal tunnel syndrome and pain medications can help. It is also important to improve the ergonomics of your workspace. For example, using gel wrist pads to keep your wrists in neutral alignment when typing on a keyboard or to switch from using a laptop to a desktop computer with the appropriate monitor and keyboard height.
If you experience sudden onset of weakness, loss of hand grip or hand coordination, or hand numbness along with severe neck pain or shooting arm pain, might suggest a neurological problem other than carpal tunnel syndrome and should be evaluated immediately.
Hand occupational therapy can teach you exercises to decrease pain and improve your function. Our doctors can give you a corticosteroid injection to the wrist which may help with relieving the symptoms temporarily. Sometimes, electromyography and a nerve conduction test are performed to determine the extent of nerve injury. If the symptoms are persisting despite conservative treatments or if there is muscle wasting in the hands or severe findings on the nerve test, you may be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon for release of the carpal tunnel.
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