Whether you’re a typist or a truck driver, a violinist or a jackhammer operator, a wood-worker or a court stenographer, you are a likely to experience CTS.
The median nerve is one of three main nerves that provide sensation to the hand. This nerve specifically supplies sensation to the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger.
In CTS, compression on the median nerve occurs as it travels through a narrow passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. When there is swelling on the structures in the carpal tunnel, you can experience “pins and needles,” numbness and aching in the hand.
Common causes and risk factors
- repetitive motion of the fingers/wrist
- vibration from machinery/equipment
- wrist trauma, such as fractures and crush injuries
- naturally narrow carpal tunnel
- hormone-related conditions, including pregnancy and menopause;
- medications, including birth control pills and some drugs for high blood pressure
- more common in women
- other risk factors include aging, obesity, smoking, and jobs and activities that require repetitive motion
- numbness or burning in the thumb, index and middle fingers
- pain or numbness that worsens with use or activity or becomes worse at night
- cramping or hand stiffness that is relieved after shaking or upon waking
- dropping objects
- decreased grip strength
For a proper diagnosis, a physician will:
- discuss your symptoms and medical history
- examine strength and sensation
- may order a nerve conduction study, an electromyography and an X-ray
Generally, treatment of CTS focuses on the causes, so suggestions may include
- activity modification
- postural changes
- frequent rest periods
- elevation, exercises or stretching of the hand, all with the goal of decreasing inflammation and compression on the median nerve
- wrist splints are effective in relieving compression at the carpal tunnel and are typically recommended for night wear.
- pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medication
- cortisone injection into the carpal tunnel may also be recommended to help decrease inflammation
The bottom line is that being aware of any activity, whether on the job or for recreation, that requires a repetitive movement, can help you in decreasing, or perhaps even eliminating, the repetitive motion that is putting stress on the median nerve in your hand causing the repetitive stress injury known as CTS.