Carpal tunnel syndrome or entrapment median neuropathy is a condition involving compression of the median nerve along the carpel tunnel causing pain and numbness in the wrist. The carpal tunnel is located along the wrist and it is located in the space of a fibrous band along the wrist. This fibrous band functions as a support to the wrist joint. The median nerve passes through this carpal tunnel inside the fibrous tissue and is responsible for the sensation in the middle and index fingers and the thumb.
Conditions that may affect the carpal tunnel can eventually compress the median nerve inside leading to median nerve irritation. The irritation further leads to various symptoms. The symptoms of the compression of the median nerve along the carpal tunnel are collectively known as the carpal tunnel syndrome. Although the exact pathophysiology of its occurrence is still not clearly understood, the symptoms are generally related to the compression of the median nerve.
The most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is typing and other activities that repeatedly require the wrist to flex and extend for a very long time. To better understand carpal tunnel syndrome, the following are the symptoms that may or may not affect the activities of daily living of the patient:
Numbness is the most common symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome. Since the nerves are responsible for sending and receiving electrical signals for sensation, compression in the median nerve will result in changes in the sensation along the thumb, index and middle fingers. The radial half of the ring finger may also be affected. Numbness is usually experienced at night because of the assumption that the wrists are flexed when people are asleep. Due to this, sleeping with your arms elevated in a pillow may help reduce numbness at night.
Pain is another common symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome. Pain is actually felt because of intense numbness that usually awakens people from sleep. Since the pain in carpal tunnel syndrome is primarily numbness that is so intense, the pain is felt as a result to misinterpretation of the pain receptors and not a real pain in itself. Pain is characterized as sharp and shooting radiating to the forearm.
Carpal tunnel syndrome may also cause weakness of the hands particularly to palmar abduction, which can affect the ability of the person to use the wrist for movement. Weakness is usually assessed through decreased grip strength. Decreased grip strength may cause patients to drop things they are holding.
• Muscle cramping
Cramping along the hands and forearm may also be felt in carpal tunnel syndrome.
• Atrophy or muscles around the area
Prolonged carpal tunnel may lead to permanent damage along the median nerve, which can lead to disuse atrophy of the muscles around the wrist, thumb and palms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be prevented by properly positioning the keyboard so that the wrists are held in a straight position while typing. Special keyboards were also already designed to keep the wrist in the most desirable position while working.