August 4, 2008

5 Things You Didn’t Know About … Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


What is it? This painful, progressive condition, also called median nerve entrapment, occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. It's more common in women and it affects up to 10 percent of the population.

Symptoms: These include numbness, tingling and pain in the hand, which might awaken you at night; a shocking feeling in the fingers or hand; strange sensations and pain that might travel up the arm toward the shoulder; and a feeling of weakness or clumsiness.

Causes: A 2001 Mayo Clinic study ruled out heavy computer use. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says carpal tunnel syndrome is most likely due to a congenital predisposition _ the carpal tunnel is simply smaller in some people than in others. Risk factors include a wrist sprain or fracture, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis and work stress. Many people have no identifiable causes.

Treatment: In early stages, shaking the hand will ease pressure on the median nerve. A physician will likely prescribe rest and a splint to immobilize the wrist. Heat treatments and massage may also alleviate symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Rare case: The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery reported in 1972 that a 37-year-old man was stung on the left hand by an unidentified insect in 1970. He experienced immediate pain and swelling, and a doctor prescribed analgesics, Benadryl and oral enzymes. The man's hand continued to swell. Five days later, he experienced a decreased sensation and weakness in his thumb. A surgeon operated, released the median nerve and administered a short course of oral corticosteroids. The swelling reduced and sensation improved. It was concluded that the insect sting caused carpal tunnel syndrome.


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