From brushing our teeth to picking up a pen, we use our hands and wrists constantly every day, which is why pain in this region can significantly affect our quality of life. One of the most frequent causes of pain in the hand and wrist is carpal tunnel syndrome.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist formed by the hand’s bones and ligaments. The median nerve extends from your upper arm into your hand and passes through this tunnel. When the median nerve becomes compressed or irritated, it can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Feels Like
The median nerve is a motor nerve that supplies sensation and mobility to the forearm, wrist, thumb, index and middle fingers, and half of the ring finger. It enables you to bend your wrist and fingers and rotate your forearm. When this nerve becomes compressed, it may lead to the following symptoms:
- Weak grip strength
- Pain that travels into the forearm
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers
- Pins and needles sensation in the hands
- Difficulty with fine motor skills
Since many people fall asleep with their wrists curled or bent, these symptoms may be exacerbated at night. They may also become worse when your hands and wrist are in the same position for an extended period.
Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
You may be at a higher risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome if you have had a recent injury to the hand or wrist or you frequently perform repetitive motions with your wrist. The risk of developing this condition increases as you age. Other risk factors include:
- High salt intake
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High BMI
How to Diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome. However, you will need to be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist to confirm a diagnosis. Your physician may conduct one or more of the following tests:
The Tinel Sign
The Tinel sign is a diagnostic test used to determine whether you have carpal tunnel syndrome. This test involves tapping on the median nerve at the wrist to see if you feel a tingling sensation in your hand.
Wrist Flexion Test
In this diagnostic test, your physician will let your wrist dangle freely without any support. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you will likely experience numbness within 60 seconds.
Nerve Conduction Test
Also known as electromyography, a nerve conduction test involves placing electrodes on your skin to measure the electrical activity of your muscles. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, there will be a decrease in the electrical activity in your muscles.
An ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the inside of your body. This diagnostic test can be utilized to evaluate the median nerve.
An X-ray is a test that administers radiation to provide images of your interior structures. It can help your doctor examine the severity of the median nerve’s compression and allow them to determine if there is any damage to the bones or ligaments of the wrist or hand.
An MRI uses magnetic waves to help your physician view your body’s soft tissues. This test is often used to determine the reason for your median nerve’s compression.
Ways to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pain
If you have recently been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, there are a few ways you can treat this condition, including:
- Physical therapy
- Wrist splinting
- Cortisone injections
- Ice therapy
If your hand and wrist pain does not subside with non-surgical treatments, you may qualify for a carpal tunnel release procedure.
Get Help at CCMC
Find out if you’re a candidate for a carpal tunnel release procedure at Comprehensive Medical Care. CCMC provides a wide range of surgical and non-surgical treatments to help treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you get pain-free again.