Carpal tunnel syndrome

Articles

When we are discussing persistent numbness in the hand, you may have the phrase “carpal tunnel syndrome” ringing in your ears. Does that mean ring a bell? Do you really know what it implies? Let’s review this condition to get a better understanding.

Anatomy / pathology

This condition occurs in the interior of the wrist; several structures, including a nerve, pass through a “tunnel” formed by the wrist’s bones and a membrane that covers them. This nerve can be easily compressed or irritated by friction or tightening. This nerve irritation creates the known symptoms of this syndrome, such as numbness and weakness. Generally, this condition is caused by repetitive movements of the wrist that cause excessive friction on the nerve.

We typically observe repetitive movements of the wrist in office and assembly line employees. This condition is also possible in musicians, such as violinists. In fact, a repetitive movement is any movement that repeats several times within minutes, at repeated intervals within the same day.  Then, a person will present with symptoms of numbness and weakness of the hand and sometimes, with pain. This will prevent the individual from carrying out their workplace tasks, leisure activities, and even certain everyday activities.

Risk factors

It is important to mention the risk factors, other than repetitive movements, that can foster the development of carpal tunnel syndrome:

Treatments

Avoiding surgery is possible. Surgery consists of decompressing the tunnel by a partial incision of the transverse ligament of the wrist. This allows the nerve to release. This practice is only carried out in severe cases, or when conventional treatments have not improved the condition. Furthermore, strengthening exercises will be necessary after surgery.

Conventional treatments include primarily rest, which can include wearing a wrist brace specifically designed for the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Appropriate physical therapy includes a combination of ultrasound (which reduces inflammation) and mobilization of the bones of the wrist (to increase space). It is also important to add exercises to mobilize the involved nerve to reduce the risk of adhesions, as well as irritation.