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Hand and Wrist Conditions

You’re working at your desk, trying to ignore the tingling or numbness you’ve had for months in your hand and wrist. Suddenly, a sharp, piercing pain shoots through the wrist and up your arm. Just a passing cramp? More likely you have carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful progressive condition caused by compression of a key nerve in the wrist.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (although not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move. The carpal tunnel – a narrow, rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand houses the median nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the median nerve to be compressed. The result may be pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm. Although painful sensations may indicate other conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common and widely known of the entrapment neuropathies in which the body’s peripheral nerves are compressed or traumatized.

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

  • Pain, burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb and the index and middle fingers
  • Fingers feel “useless and swollen”
  • Feeling the need to “shake out” the hand or wrist
  • Decreased grip strength
  • Unable to tell between hot and cold by touch

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis involves history of the condition, hands-on examination of the involved areas and often diagnostic studies such as X-ray, lab work, and electrodiagnostic studies to determine the true pain generator. Medical treatment usually consists of rest, anti-inflammatory medication, bracing and monitoring. Often physical therapy is recommended. Surgery should be a last resort for most patients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome because of the complications and risks involved. Before you resort to surgery, make sure you actually have carpal tunnel syndrome. Often, pain in the hands, wrist pain and numbness may have nothing whatsoever to do with a problem with the wrist. Before you subject yourself to surgery or taking a long regimen of drugs, consider conservative chiropractic management.