What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that affects the median nerve in the wrist and hand. The carpal tunnel is a narrow, rigid opening formed by bones and ligaments in the wrist at the base of the hand. The median nerve, muscle tendons and blood vessels pass through the opening. Repetitive hand and wrist movements, such as working on an assembly line, at a computer, or with power tools, irritate the median nerve resulting in excessive inflammation, nerve pressure and painful symptoms. Fluid retention or edema can cause the tissues in the carpal tunnel to swell and press on the median nerve. At first, you may have numbness, tingling or burning in your hand. Shooting pain in your wrist or forearm may follow, and your grip may become weak. It is quite common during pregnancy.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common and widely known syndrome where a peripheral nerve is compressed or injured. When the median nerve gets compressed or injured, the sensation to the palm side of the thumb and first finger and half of the second or middle finger will become diminished. In severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, there is a loss of muscle mass of the thenar pad (the thumb side of your palm).
Carpal tunnel syndrome is often misdiagnosed. It is important to remember that not all painful sensations in the hand, wrist, or forearm are carpal tunnel syndrome. Joint and muscle problems in the forearm, shoulder and/or neck can mimic carpal tunnel syndrome and lead to inappropriate treatment such as surgery.
A thorough examination is critical in properly diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome. Oftentimes a combination of factors contributes to your pain and discomfort that may appear as carpal tunnel syndrome.