Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a painful, numbing, or tingling sensation occurring on the hand or wrist and sometimes extending to the forearm. The pain is usually the result of the median nerve compression. The median nerve is located inside a rigid, narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments called the ‘carpal tunnel’. It is responsible for providing sensitivity to the thumb, index, middle and part of the ring finger; and for muscle control at the base of the thumb.
Narrowing or impediment of the carpal tunnel and its surrounding structures leads to nerve compression that ultimately results in pain, weakness or numbness of the affected part.
There is often no single factor that causes CTS to develop. Contributing reasons include injury to the wrist that causes inflammation like a fracture, sprain, and mechanical problems in the wrist, repeated use of vibrating hand tools, work stress, or arthritis. Other factors also include an overactive pituitary gland, fluid retention during pregnancy, cyst or tumor growth, and an underactive thyroid gland.
Women are more likely to develop CTS because women’s carpal tunnel structure is much smaller than men. People working in industries such as sewing, cleaning, finishing, manufacturing, meat, poultry or fish packing are three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than data-entry personnel.
The first signs of CTS are tingling, burning or itching numbness in the fingers, especially the index, middle fingers, thumb, and in the palm of the hands. The symptoms can be felt at night since most people sleep with a flexed wrist. People with CTS may have diminished hand strength and may have difficulty making a grip, grasp small objects, form a fist or do other manual tasks. In other severe CTS, the hand loses its sensation to hot and cold temperatures.
Having carpal tunnel syndrome can limit the things you can perform in your daily tasks. You may find yourself having difficulty to hold onto small items and carry or lift things. Also, it may be painful to brush your hair, open a jar or bottle, and sign or sort documents.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome pain may also prevent you from performing work-related tasks especially if you are working as an inspector, admin assistant or bookkeeper. Because of your inability to grasp or lift things, it can decrease your chances of getting hired in jobs involving tasks in a warehouse, cashier, delivery driver, or shipping department.
Jobs concerning word processing, data entry, and IT duties can also be challenging since it utilizes hand movements. The movement problems in your wrist and hand can make it extremely problematic to drive, repair or maintain things especially if you are working as maintenance staff or a mechanic.
Because of the pain involved in the mobility of your hand, you may be compelled to wear a splint on the affected wrist to immobilize it and rest the area to decrease the pain. If the pain becomes severe, the doctor may advise you to undergo surgery to alleviate the pain and discomfort.