The causes and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that affect the hand.

It can occur when the carpal tunnel, a passageway or ‘tube’ inside your wrist consisting of ligaments and bones, becomes narrower and presses down on the nerve that provides feeling to most of your fingers and gives strength in the base of your index finger and thumb.

This pressure causes the nerve and tendons to swell, which then leads to aches in your fingers and hands, possibly along with numbness, tingling, or pins and needles. It can also cause a general weakness in your hand and wrist, so that you have difficulty in gripping.

How can carpal tunnel syndrome develop?

Carpal tunnel can develop over a prolonged period of time. It can be caused by any repetitive motion of the wrist, and can be triggered by activities while at work or by participating in hobbies that involve bending your wrist, gripping hard, or using vibrating tools. Some activities that have been related to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome are:

  • Working in construction
  • Being a machinist or a mechanic
  • Being a nurses or care provider
  • Using computer keyboards regularly
  • Excessive gaming

There are also certain risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. These include injuring your hand and wrist, such as breaks and fractures, being overweight, being pregnant, and having illnesses such as diabetes or arthritis.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually begin slowly but they vary from person to person, and can range from very mild to severe. They can include:

  • A tingling sensation in the hands
  • A feeling of numbness in fingers
  • Pain in the hands
  • Weakness of the muscles in the thumb
  • Weakness of your pinch grip
  • Fingers feeling swollen or heavy
  • A tingling or numb feeling moving from your hand to your wrist, and sometimes your arm

As most people sleep with their wrists curled, night time symptoms are often the first time people realise that something is wrong.

When to get treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome

You might decide to have carpal tunnel surgery if you experience symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day activities. Simple tasks may become too difficult due to pain, numbness, tingling sensations, and muscle weakness in your hand(s).

What will happen if I decide to have treatment?

At your free consultation with us, our specialists will be able to advise you on the benefits of carpal tunnel surgery and whether it could be the right treatment for you.

If you chose to proceed, your surgeon will begin by numbing your wrist with a local anaesthetic injection to minimise any pain. An incision is made in your hand, and the ligament around the carpal tunnel is cut in order to increase its size, reducing the pressure on the nerve. Your incision is then closed with stitches.

This surgery can be conducted as an outpatient procedure, so you’ll be able to go home the same day. And although in the first few days of recovery you may have some discomfort, many people experience relief from their symptoms quickly, even in the fist 24 hours following their procedure.