Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome are characterized by numbness and tingling of the hand, similar to what people experience when their hands or feet "fall asleep." Generally, the tingling sensation is felt in the wrist and fingers. Rarely is it felt in the palm of the hand.
This is because the median nerve runs up the side of the hand and passes away from the palm. This tingling can then gradually progress to a weak feeling in the wrist and fingers, accompanied with pain. Other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- The inability to grasp objects with the affected hand
- Pain that stretches from the wrist to elbow and up into the shoulder
- The inability to perform common tasks such as tying your shoes, removing the lid from a jar, or difficulty unlocking a door.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Any type of pressure on the median nerve is a cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. The most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome I see is what is referred to as a "repetitive stress injury."
Repetitive stress injuries are a result of a person performing the same task over and over again. People who spend long hours a day at a computer are at risk for a repetitive stress injury as are people who work in manufacturing jobs where they assemble objects and those people who play any type of musical instrument daily.
I once had a patient who worked as a security guard who suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome. It turned out that his repetitive stress was the act of twisting his wrist to unlock and lock a gate many times during the course of his shift. Other causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
People suffering from diabetes can also acquire carpal tunnel syndrome. Those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis are also prone to carpal tunnel syndrome. Women who are experiencing hormonal fluctuations such as those found in menopause may experience the narrowing of the carpal tunnel.
Carpal Tunnel in Pregnancy
Carpal tunnel syndrome is highly prevalent in pregnant women, especially during the second trimester of pregnancy. During the second trimester of pregnancy, women are more likely to retain fluid and swell along the joint paths. This swelling and fluid retention can lead to compression of the carpal tunnel, leading to pressure being placed on the median nerve.
Often, carpal tunnel syndrome disappears after giving birth, but in a little under 20% of cases, it may linger. What is considered conventional treatment for carpal tunnel in pregnancy is dangerous for the fetus. Many medical doctors recommend localized steroid injections and oral pain medication.
While this treatment is not good for anyone long-term, and only solves the symptoms without curing the cause, it is not a viable solution at all for women who are pregnant. What everyone needs, especially pregnant women, is a gentle, non-invasive treatment that not only relieves the pain, but also allows for return to full activity.