Carpal tunnel syndrome refers to compression of the median nerve. The median nerve is a very long one, extending all the way down the lower arm and through the hand. The median nerve travels through the carpal tunnel, the small tunnel of bones and the transverse carpal ligament found at the base of the hand. Sometimes the tendons in the area may swell, making the carpal tunnel much narrower and placing pressure on the median nerve. This compression is the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel are fairly easy to recognize. Pain in the wrist, hand, or lower arm are often the most obvious indicator of carpal tunnel syndrome. This pain may happen at any time, but many people find that it is especially noticeable at night. Numbness is also common in carpal tunnel sufferers. The numbness is often concentrated in the middle fingers, but not in the pinky finger. Some people who have carpal tunnel syndrome have a "pins and needles" feeling in their hand at times. Stiffness in the hand or wrist is also common in carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome has a variety of different causes. Diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, wrist fractures, and even fluid retention can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Even people who have none of these factors may develop carpal tunnel if they constantly overuse their hand and wrist. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome is not uncommon in people who perform repetitive movements on an assembly line every day.
For some people, anti-inflammatory medications offer effective carpal tunnel syndrome relief. If the carpal tunnel happens due to water retention, diuretics may be effective. Corticosteroids and anesthetics are an injectable treatment option that may offer short-term relief. In some cases, the best option for permanent relief is a surgical procedure in which the orthopedic surgeon increases the diameter of the carpal tunnel.
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