Basic Anatomy of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Originating from the cervical spine, the median nerve runs through the entire arm and terminates in the hand. This relatively long nerve plays a key role in the movement of the upper limbs and fingers. As it enters the wrist, the median nerve passes through a section that’s known as a carpal tunnel. In simple terms, the tunnel is a hollow space that’s surrounded by rigid biological material. For example, tendons in the arm have a very dense composition. Additionally, the carpal bones are also quite hard in texture. The carpal tunnel is confined to fixed parameters that are influenced by the surrounding anatomical structures. Inflammation of any nearby soft tissue can exert excessive pressure on this important nerve. Similarly, certain movements of the wrist, hand and fingers may also irritate or pinch the nerve.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common side effect of carpal tunnel syndrome is an unpleasant sensation in the hand. Tingling may indicate that the median nerve is compressed by adjacent tissue or bones. In medical terms, paresthesia can also refer to pins-and-needles and pricking sensations. Pain and numbness are some other common symptoms of an irritated median nerve. Sometimes, the sensations might be felt running up the forearm and shoulder. A loss of dexterity and flexibility of the upper limbs is another concern for people who are affected by carpal tunnel syndrome.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
A modern lifestyle forces people to use desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets and smartphones. Typing on a keyboard tends to place a lot of strain on all the anatomical components of the hand and arm. For instance, the flexor tendons are under high tension when the fingers are positioned to make smooth contact with keys.
Swiping and tapping a touch screen also requires a lot of precision from the tendons, muscles, ligaments and other tissue in the hand and forearm. Some sports can also increase the risk for the development of the condition. For instance, hitting forehands and backhands in tennis requires extreme flexion and extension of the wrist. Vibrations from a racquet can also reach the carpal tunnel and other fragile components of the hand.
A physician can perform several traditional tests to detect the presence of this condition. The Tinel’s sign test is designed to precisely identify any degree of irritation in the media nerve. Phalen’s maneuver may also be used to analyze the range of motion of the wrist. In a Durkan test, constant pressure is applied on the palm of the hand in order to detect any pain. Using small electrical currents, electrophysiological tests are also very useful in analyzing the function of nerves and muscles in the arms.
A mild form of carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated with a conventional splint or brace that’s worn on the wrist. A moderate to severe form of this condition may require occasional injections of steroids. Additionally, surgery can be performed to reduce pressure on the median nerve and other parts of the carpal tunnel.
At La Grange Chiropractic, our trusted doctor can provide you with the appropriate course of treatment for your carpal tunnel syndrome. Contact our office in La Grange to schedule your first appointment and learn more.