You’re working at your desk, trying to ignore the tingling or numbness you’ve had for some time in your hand and wrist. Suddenly, a sharp, piercing pain shoots through the wrist and up your arm. Generally, there is a tendency among people to neglect it by thinking that it is just a passing cramp. But it could be a carpal tunnel syndrome. It is a narrow passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms start gradually. As they worsen, grasping objects can get difficult.

It happens due to excess pressure on your wrist and on the median nerve. Few most frequent conditions linked to carpal tunnel syndrome are:

  • diabetes
  • thyroid dysfunction
  • fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause
  • high blood pressure
  • fractures to the wrist

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be made worse if the wrist is overextended on a regular basis. Which may be the result of:

  • positioning of your wrists while using your keyboard or mouse
  • long exposure to vibration from using hand tools
  • any repeated movement that overextends your wrist like typing

Women are three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men. It is diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60. Lifestyle factors that may increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome include smoking, high salt intake, high BMI (body mass index).

Symptoms are usually found along the nerve path. Your hand may fall asleep frequently and drop objects. Other symptoms include:

  • numbness and pain in your thumb and the first three fingers of your hand
  • pain and burning in your arms
  • wrist pain at night while sleeping
  • weakness in the hand muscle

It can be diagnosed by physical examination and tests like nerve conduction studies. A physical examination includes a detailed evaluation of your hand, wrist, shoulder, and neck. Doctors will look at wrists for signs of tenderness, swelling, or any other deformities.

For non-surgical treatment, the options are:

  • avoiding positions that overextend your wrist
  • wrist splints that hold your hand in a neutral position, especially at night
  • mild pain medication and medications to reduce inflammation
  • steroid injections into your carpal tunnel

Surgery will be required if there is a severe damage to your median nerve. Surgery involves cutting the band of tissues in the wrist that crosses the median nerve which will lessen the pressure on the nerve. The outcome is usually good.

One can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by making lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of developing it by treating diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis.  Physical exercises will be helpful as well.

Treating carpal tunnel syndrome early with physical therapy can lead to long-term improvement and eliminate symptoms. The untreated carpal syndrome can lead to permanent nerve damage, disability, and loss of hand function.