Carpal tunnel syndrome reached epidemic proportions in the 90’s and has now achieved a status equaling pandemic proportions in the 21st century. With carpal tunnel syndrome having such devastating effects on millions of people each year, how do you know if you or someone you know has it?
With so much attention and hype the past 10-years concerning carpal tunnel syndrome in the workplace, you would think that a clear-cut picture would exist regarding the “how’s” “why’s” and “what is it’s” of carpal tunnel. Although carpal tunnel syndrome should be easily recognizable with such extensive media exposure, you would be amazed at how many people, including a lot of doctors, who do not recognize the symptoms or misdiagnose it as something other than carpal tunnel syndrome.
In order to provide a more clear picture of what carpal tunnel is, why and how it develops and what can be done to eliminate it, I have provided information below to explain the process so that you can better identify and therefore prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from taking over your life.
What is the Carpal Tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is a passageway in which the nine flexor tendons, median nerve, arteries, blood and lymphatic vessels pass through in order to supply function and movement to the fingers and wrist.
The carpal bones line the carpal tunnel on the posterior surface (backside) of the wrist with the transverse carpal ligament positioned on the anterior (front side) of the wrist. The size of the carpal tunnel is about the size of the index finger in diameter, and the flexor tendons, arteries and nerves glide past one another with ease in a carpal tunnel that has not decreased in size.
How Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Develop?
Because the finger and wrist muscles are constantly overused in one-way movement patterns, (Gripping, squeezing, typing, etc.) a “muscle imbalance” develops, causing the carpal bones to shift, in turn, making the carpal tunnel smaller and impinging the structures within, resulting in painful and debilitating symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Paresthesia (Pins & needles)
Loss of grip-strength / coordination
Sensations involving tightness, discomfort, stiffness and pain on the front side of the hand and wrist may be present in carpal tunnel, but may also be symptoms of a general repetitive strain injury.
The only true telltale signs of carpal tunnel syndrome that you need to be aware of affect the thumb, index, middle and sometimes one-half of the ring finger. (All of the fingers and symptoms listed do not have to be experienced simultaneously for you to have carpal tunnel syndrome.)
If you have symptoms in your entire ring and/or little finger and your doctor tells you that you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you don’t! The ULNAR nerve supplies function to the ring and little finger and has nothing to so with carpal tunnel syndrome. (If the ring and/or little fingers are affected, it may either be Cubital Tunnel Syndrome or Guyon’s Syndrome)
How Are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Eliminated?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can quickly and easily be eliminated by performing a good stretch and exercise program that addresses the existing muscle imbalance that is the cause of carpal tunnel in most cases.
Knowing why carpal tunnel syndrome develops and what to look for is the key to keeping your hands healthy. With the information provided above you should now be able to recognize the disabling symptoms and take the steps necessary in order to stop it before it stops you!