Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common wrist and hand injury.  It occurs when one of the major nerves called the median nerve is compressed within the carpal tunnel of the wrist.  This may occur for a number of reasons but some of the more common reasons include: pregnancy, gout, trauma (repetitive or direct trauma), or infection.  Carpal tunnel can happen at anytime, however it is more common between the ages of 40-60 and women tend to be affected more often then men.

This condition is characterized by burning wrist pain and numbness or tingling within the hand.  This often occurs at night and the patient usually wakes up due to the symptoms.   In some cases the pain can radiate to the forearm, elbow, and shoulder.

Some of the other symptoms reported by patients include poor sensation in the hand, weakness of the hand, cramping in the hand, reduced temperature in the hand, and sometimes shaking or flicking the hand relieves the symptoms.  There may also be muscle wasting around the thumb.  Movements of the hand are often pain free, however some resisted movements around the thumb can be painful.

Diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome is often done based on the patient’s medical history.  Your physiotherapist or physician will take you through a series of tests and if carpal tunnel syndrome is suspected a nerve conduction test may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.  Diabetes should be excluded, as it can be a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Mild cases can be treated conservatively.  This may include splinting, activity modification, diuretics, and NSAID medications.  Techniques such as contrast baths, which are alternating baths of cold and warm water, may be used in some cases to control inflammation and swelling.  A physiotherapist may give you specific exercises that can be helpful with a patient’s recovery.  For more persistent or severe cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be required.

Wrist and hand injuries are often difficult to diagnose so if you are experiencing symptoms of this nature it is recommended that you see your health care professional to have it taken care of.