Get the Facts About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Our hands are complex and intricate structures. They are made up of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments as well as blood vessels and nerves. The skeleton of the human hand consists of 27 small bones. There are eight carpal bones lined up in two rows in the wrist. Five metacarpal bones make up a large portion of our hand. Each of our fingers consists of three thin long bones called phalanges while there are only two in our thumbs. The bones of the hand articulate together allowing movement of the wrist, hand, and fingers. Linking all of these bones are tiny and tough ligaments and muscles.
We use our hands daily. From brushing our teeth to preparing meals, to replying to that important email, our hands are always at work. Their proper function is essential to almost everything we do. But what if you start to experience hand and wrist pain? What if you have nagging numbness and tingling into your palm? Simple tasks such as carrying a bag and texting become difficult and painful.
What is the carpal tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow canal created by tendons, ligaments, and bones in the wrist. It’s found on the palm side of your wrist, connecting the forearm to the hand. It serves as a passageway for the median nerve and the flexor tendons. The roof of this canal is created by a dense tissue called the flexor retinaculum. It serves as a protective structure. However, its density combined with the lack of space in the carpal tunnel increases the risk of nerve entrapment and compression.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the wrist. The median nerve travels from the brachial plexus in the neck, down the arm, through the carpal tunnel to the hand. This important nerve provides sensation to your thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of your ring finger. It also supplies the muscles of the front of the forearm and the small muscles of the thumb side of the hand. Therefore, it plays an essential role in the function of the hand.
The median nerve is the only nerve that passes through the carpal tunnel. Its neighbouring tendons can become inflamed, for various reasons, causing swelling. This swelling can narrow the carpal tunnel which in turn can cause median nerve compression and carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms start with burning, tingling or numbness in the palm and the thumb, index and middle fingers. Your dominant hand is usually affected first. Some CTS sufferers talk about wanting to shake their hands out to relieve the sensation. Symptoms typically first appear at night since many people sleep with their wrists curled up aggravating the median nerve. As the condition worsens, symptoms are felt throughout the day. Grip strength is decreased, hand function is limited and pain sets in. However, it is very important to note that there are many other causes of hand and finger numbness, tingling, and pain.
Who is at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome?
Women are three times more likely than men to develop this condition. Fluid retention during pregnancy can put some women at a greater risk of developing symptoms. Individuals with diabetes or other metabolic disorders that affect the nerves are also at a higher risk. Carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in workers performing repetitive tasks such as assembly line work or constant use of a computer mouse.
Is it really carpal tunnel syndrome?
When we experience numbness and tingling into our hand, we want to know what’s going on. Dr. Google is quick to make the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. But is it truly that? CTS may not be as common as expected. Differential diagnoses for hand pain, numbness and tingling, and weakness include cervical spine radiculopathy, hand-arm vibration syndrome, wrist and hand arthritis, nerve compression at the elbow, and upper-cross syndrome. If you are experiencing symptoms in your wrist and hand, consult your chiropractor and massage therapist. Our team will conduct a thorough assessment to determine the cause of your symptoms. We will then provide specific recommendations for care. These may include chiropractic care, massage therapy, workstation assessment and modifications, specific stretches and exercises or referral for further evaluation.
Our team is here to help you keep your musculoskeletal system healthy, from head to hands to toes! For more information, please contact us at 613-860-8600