Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Overview

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive strain condition - most often resulting from a constant, repetitive motion associated with a job or activity. The repetitious movement subsequently causes the median nerve, which is located in a narrow passage inside the wrist called the carpal tunnel, to become irritated and compressed with increasing pressure within the tunnel.

Within the carpal tunnel, nine tendons accompany the median nerve - and a covering consisting of a tight ligament called the transverse ligament helps protect it. In patients performing repetitive activity, the membranes that lubricate the tendons as they glide in the tunnel begin to swell. When the median nerve, which provides feeling to the thumb, index and middle fingers, as well as a portion of the ring finger and several muscles in the hand, malfunctions as a result of increasing irritation and swelling, the condition is diagnosed as CTS.

Symptoms may vary and include simply a mild numbness and tingling on the palmar surface of a finger, or a more severe pain that radiates upward towards the shoulder. If untreated, symptoms generally become worse - affecting wrist, hand, or finger movement, as well as reducing grip strength and disrupting sleep.

While most often diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60, women are diagnosed three times more often than men - generally as a result of hormone-related conditions such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, hypothyroidism, and excessive growth hormone, all of which create an increased vulnerability and susceptibility to the condition

Others at risk for CTS include those with occupations that entail repetitive hand tasks such as keyboard operators, assembly line workers, typists, barbers, musicians, and drivers. Also at risk are workers using vibrating tools such as jackhammers, chain saws, chippers, grinders, drills and sanders.

Some medical conditions may also increase the likelihood of an individual to suffer CTS - including arthritis, diabetes, Raynaud's disease and tumors and cysts within the carpal tunnel. Genetics may also play a role, as inheriting a narrow carpal tunnel can increase a person's chance of developing the condition.

Diagnosis and Treatment
There are a series of tests that help in the diagnoses of CTS. Among the simplest are the Tinel's Sign test and the Phalen's test. The Tinel's Sign test involves a few sharp taps on the patient's wrist in order to assess their response and level of pain. A patient suffering from CTS may feel an electric shock sensation during the taps. During a Phalen's test, the patient's wrist is bent with the thumb positioned down. This position is held for a brief moment and the amount of tingling or numbness the patient experiences in the hand is assessed.

Imaging tests are also used in the diagnosis of CTS. These tests may involve an X-ray, a computed tomography (CT) scan, or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, in order to more precisely identify the root cause of a patients CTS - as well as any other problems that may exist as a result of the condition.

Following diagnosis, treatment options are discussed and based on the severity of the condition and the lifestyle and overall health of the patient.

CTS is most often treated with non-invasive methods if diagnosed early. These methods include a period of rest from the repetitive activity, and the use of anti-inflammatory medication to ease pain and reduce inflammation. In more severe cases, a minimally invasive surgical procedure known as an Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release is performed.

Rehabilitation is one of the most important aspects of treatment for any injury. After a period of rest, patients are encouraged to begin a series of stretching exercises to improve range of motion and grip strength. Depending on the treatment and severity of the condition, the resumption of daily activities and work may range from several days to several weeks. Though, the chance of a recurrence is minimal and complications extremely rare. Rehabilitation Exercises for Carpal Tunnel.