Many people suffer through pain, numbness, and tingling in their hand and arm yet don’t do anything about it. They just assume they slept wrong on their arm or are doing something else at that instant causing the issue. They’re often wrong in those assumptions because those same people often have carpal tunnel syndrome.
At Texas Neurosurgery, we perform carpal tunnel release surgery regularly to help our patients by relieving pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.
Here’s some more information and signs to watch for with carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is the carpal tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist. About one inch in diameter, the floor (top side of your wrist) and sides of the tunnel are formed by small wrist bones called carpal bones. The roof of the tunnel is a strong band of connective tissue called the transverse carpal ligament. The space is tight and the boundaries are rigid, so there isn’t any room for the ligament to stretch or increase in size.
The median nerve is one of the main nerves in the hand. Originating in the neck, it runs down the arm and forearm, passing through the carpal tunnel in the wrist and ending in the hand. This nerve provides feeling for your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.
In addition to the median nerve, nine tendons (the flexor tendons) that bend the fingers and thumb also travel through the carpal tunnel.
A crowded tunnel
Like the Lincoln Tunnel during rush hour, there’s a lot going on in your carpal tunnel and not any excess capacity. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the tunnel narrows or when the tissues surrounding the flexor tendons swell, putting pressure on the median nerve. These tissues are called the synovium. Their job is to lubricate the tendons, so that your fingers move easily. When the synovium swells, it takes up more space in the carpal tunnel and crowds the nerve. Over time, this pressure on the nerve creates pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand. This is now carpal tunnel syndrome.
What are the symptoms?
Here’s what to look for if you think you are developing carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Numbness, tingling, burning, and pain in the thumb, and index, middle, and ring fingers
- Occasional shock-like sensations that radiate to the thumb and same three fingers
- Pain or tingling that travels up the forearm toward the shoulder
- Weakness and clumsiness in the hand and difficulty with fine movements
- Dropping things due to weakness or numbness in your fingers