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What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Derrick Arrington

Derrick has taught biology and chemistry at both the high school and college level. He has a master's degree in science education.

Many people are afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome. In this lesson, we will examine what causes this disorder, its symptoms, and how it can be treated.

Definition of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

You may know someone or have seen someone who wears a brace due to suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder that causes progressively worsening pain in the hand and wrist. It is caused by a pinched nerve. Let's examine the causes, symptoms, and treatment for this disorder.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a passageway that runs down the palm side of your wrist. It is a pathway for the median nerve and tendons that lead to your hand. This nerve allows you to sense things with your hand and conduct messages between your hand and your brain. The tendons that go through the carpal tunnel allow you to move your fingers and flex your hand.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed in some manner. It can be compressed as a result of trauma to the area or due to inflammation from repetitive use of the hand. Many people who have jobs involving repetitive hand motion can suffer from the disorder. People sometimes develop rheumatoid arthritis with age, and this inflammation can compress the median nerve also resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Individuals who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome show a variety of symptoms. These symptoms can include a tingling or numbness in the wrist, forearm, and fingers. Symptoms also include pain that can radiate from the fingers through the wrist and to the forearm and shoulder. In some cases, individuals also experience a weakness of sensation and functioning of the hand. This weakness can cause the person to arbitrarily drop objects and result in the inability to have a strong grip on objects they use in daily activities.

Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

There are numerous treatments available for individuals who suffer from this disorder depending on the degree of severity of the symptoms.

For people with extremely mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, the easiest treatment is to limit the amount of use of the hand and wrist. Patients are encouraged to think of the ways they use their wrist throughout the day and to adjust their habits. A brace may be prescribed for individuals who cannot mentally limit the use of their wrist. Also, the application of cold compresses can reduce the inflammation and reduce the symptoms.

Individuals with moderate symptoms benefit from wrist braces that limit the mobility of the affected area and decrease the pressure on the median nerve. This reduces the pain experienced to some degree. They also benefit from anti-inflammatory drugs as well as steroids that alleviate the pressure on the median nerve.

Splints reduce the mobility of the wrist and decrease inflammation. This reduces pain in the affected area.
An image of a splint.

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