Wrists can be susceptible to a number of potentially debilitating injuries and conditions, especially carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a common condition that can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs along a passageway in the wrist (the carpal tunnel), becomes compressed. The median nerve carries information from the brain – including sensation (the ability to feel) and muscle movement – to the hand and forearm.
If this nerve becomes compressed or entrapped, it cannot function properly. This is carpal tunnel syndrome.
How Does Carpal Tunnel Start?
There are a number of reasons why pressure and inflammation can develop in the wrist and cause the space in the carpal tunnel to narrow. Some medical conditions have been linked to carpal tunnel syndrome, including the following:
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- High blood pressure
- Fluid retention
Injuries to the wrist or hand that can aggravate this condition include:
- Joint dislocations
- Overuse injuries
- Stress injuries
- Sprains or strains of the wrist
Why Would I Get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Factors that can put you more at risk of developing this condition can include:
- Repetitive motions and continual bending of the wrist – such as when playing sports (e.g., tennis), job duties, playing an instrument, and everyday activities such as housework
- Regular use of handheld work equipment or power tools (exposure to continued vibration, transmitted into the hands)
- Repeated heavy lifting – such as weight lifting, bodybuilding, frequently lifting heavy grocery bags, lifting young children into car seats
- Activities involving a tight grip, including tools and sports
- If a parent or sibling has the condition
- Hormonal changes – such as during pregnancy or menopause
Who Can Diagnose My Hand Pain?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is ideally diagnosed by an orthopedic surgeon or hand specialist. The physician will conduct a medical examination to assess your hand’s sensation and function, review your medical history, and analyze your daily activities and symptoms.
The main symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling, typically felt in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. Some people describe carpal tunnel syndrome pain as a deep ache or burning that radiates into the arm.
Weakness in the thumb can make it difficult to grip and grasp things. Symptoms may be more pronounced in cold temperatures, while performing certain activities, or at night.
How Is It Treated?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can often be relieved without surgery. Avoiding activities that aggravate symptoms can help.
Wearing a wrist splint at night to keep the wrist straight can help to relieve pressure on the median nerve and help to rest the wrist. Splints may also be worn during activities that aggravate symptoms, thereby positioning the wrist properly and providing wrist support.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication may help reduce pain and swelling. In some cases, corticosteroid and anti-inflammatory medication injections can help to reduce swelling and provide symptom relief.
Wrist Surgeons in Maryland
If you have pain in your wrist, hand, or arm, or you suspect that you may have a condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome, call our team at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder. We specialize in state-of-the-art nonsurgical and surgical care of the hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders.
Call us today at (410) 296-6232 for an appointment with one of our Maryland wrist surgeons. You can also request an appointment online to see a hand specialist at any of our offices throughout Maryland. We look forward to serving you.