FAQ’s on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome might have been a familiar term to many a patient, but a clear understanding of what exactly this syndrome entails is a very complex explanation.
In short, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is the medical term for the compression of the median nerve that plays a functional role in the movement of the hand and wrist.
What is the carpal tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is a hollow cavity. The median nerve is positioned inside the carpal tunnel, which is a narrow passageway located at the base of the hand. The tunnel preserves the median nerve under the protection of bone and ligament. The carpal tunnel actually houses a total of nine tendons in the median nerve. Many conditions can result in decreased space placing pressure upon the tendons and nerve. In some cases, people may have been born with a naturally smaller carpal tunnel, which could make them more susceptible to developing this syndrom
What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- Sporadic numbness and occasional burning sensation felt in the thumb, index and the middle fingers.
- Muscle spasms of the wrist and loss of strength while gripping.
- Piercing pain originating from the wrist and moving upwards to the forearm.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome commonly appear in the later stages of the condition, as damage occurs gradually with time.
What are the reasons behind Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- Any activity that keeps the carpal tunnel under constant pressure may cause this syndrome.
- Too much strain in the muscles of hand and wrist leads to this syndrome as well.
- A congenital narrowing of the carpal tunnel is located in patients who are susceptible to CTS from birth.
- Direct injury to the wrist.
- Arthritis and hyperthyroidism cause pressure on the median nerve and swelling in the wrist and, are, therefore, instrumental in causing carpal tunnel syndrome.
How is CTS diagnosed?
The basic step taken in the diagnosis of CTS is to affirm that the manifested symptoms are the symptoms of this syndrome only, and not of any other possible conditions of the arms, shoulders, hands, wrists and fingers. This way, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is identified as the patient’s cause of pain symptoms and other possibilities are ruled out.
The second step is the examination of the wrist itself. Keeping in mind the condition of the wrist swelling, burning sensation, numbness and discoloration, the physician decides on further tests.
Further tests may include measuring the strength of the fingers that are affected by CTS. In cases of patients who believe to have developed CTS due to some external stimulation, the physician might want to arrange a test to mimic that external stimulation. The patient’s reaction time and response help the physician make a proper diagnosis.
How can Carpal Tunnel Syndrome be cured?
The treatment varies with the stage and severity of the damage caused by CTS. A treatment program will be tailored for the patient dependent on the symptoms and level of pain. Often, the immediate preventative action is taken by giving pain-relievers and anti-inflammatories to relieve the patient’s pain and burning sensations.
Physical therapy helps to develop strength in the muscles. However, surgery can also be recommended for patients who suffer from chronic CTS. Surgical correction is quite common in the United States.