Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Everything You Need To Know
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Research, around 1 in 20 people in the UK will suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome at some point. In this article, we’ll look at what carpal tunnel injury is, why it happens and how it can be treated.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Your carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway that can be found inside your wrist. A nerve, known as the median nerve, runs through this passageway, and if this nerve becomes compressed, you will develop carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Symptoms of carpal tunnel include:
- Pain in your fingers, hand, or arm;
- Numbness to your fingers or hands;
- A tingling or pins and needles sensation;
- A burning sensation in your fingers or hands;
- Weakness or poor grip.
The symptoms usually develop gradually and may come and go or be worse during certain activities or at certain times. Carpal tunnel symptoms can be similar to the symptoms of other conditions. Hence, it’s essential to see a doctor who will be able to make an accurate diagnosis or arrange for further investigations.
Several known risk factors can increase a person’s chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. These include:
- Injuries or disease that affects the wrist, such as a fracture, for example, or conditions that affect the nerves, like diabetes, and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis;
- Women are more at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome than men due to having a smaller carpal tunnel area on average;
- Likewise, petite people with smaller wrists may be more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome;
- Pregnancy can cause fluid build-up and pressure on the median nerve, and menopause is also associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Workplace conditions can also increase a person’s risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome as repetitive or prolonged flexing of the wrist places pressure on the median nerve. This could be working with vibrating power tools or machinery, working on an assembly line, or prolonged computer use, meaning that office workers, mechanics, and those working in factories or warehouses can all be at increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. If you develop carpal tunnel syndrome, you may be eligible for compensation if you think it is the result of workplace negligence.
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome can sometimes improve by itself, mainly if another condition, such as pregnancy, brought it on. However, treatment is often required to improve symptoms.
Non-surgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome include wearing a wrist splint, avoiding activities that worsen your condition, doing gentle hand exercises, and taking over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. In more severe cases, your doctor may suggest that you have a steroid injection into your wrist to reduce swelling around the median nerve and improve your symptoms.
If none of the non-surgical treatment options work and you continue carpal tunnel syndrome that interferes with your day-to-day life, or your condition seems to be worsening, you may be referred for surgery.
Before the surgery, you’ll be given an injection of local anesthetic, and a small incision will be made. The carpal tunnel inside your wrist will then be cut to release the pressure on the median nerve. Surgery usually takes about 20 minutes and typically takes around four weeks to recover and return to your normal activities.