The Carpal Tunnel is a structure on the wrist which comprises of carpal bones and a ligament sheath which form a kind of tunnel through which the median nerve passes. This nerve is the structure that becomes compressed causing signs and symptoms into the hand and wrist.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can cause:
- Sharp stabbing pain into the thumb or palm of the hand
- Pins and Needles into the thumb or palm of the hand
- Nerve pain (Pain that begins from the wrist and runs down the finger tips in a specific pattern)
- Dull aches in the one area
- Muscular cramping of the thumb and hand
- Pain when sleeping
- Numbness or “deadness” into the hand
- Stiffness in motion of the hand
- Difficulty gripping or holding objects
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by swelling of the structures surrounding or passing through the tunnel. In some cases repetitive actions and injuries can cause an irritation of the forearm tendons resulting in swelling and pressure being placed on the nerve. In other instances a systemic immune process yet to be fully understood can cause a thickening of the ligament sheath which can also compress the nerve. In other instances simple stiffness and lack of mobility of the wrist bones (carpals) can cause irritation and compression of the nerve also at the wrist resulting in symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is defined as a set of symptoms thought to be caused by squashing (compression) of this nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel. However there are also many other causes for hand and nerve pain. In fact not all cases of hand pain, tingling, or numbness are caused by nerve irritation at the wrist itself. The nerves that supply the hand originate at the neck and travel across the front of the shoulder, down the arm, past the elbow, through the muscles of the forearm and then into the hand. It is possible that hand symptoms can be caused by irritation of any one of many nerves at any point upon this route. For example tight shoulder and chest muscles or an issue with the spinal joints at the neck could easily compress the nerves higher up but only present as symptoms into the hand.
The type of treatment needed to resolve these issues will depend on the source of the irritation to the nerve. It is for this reason that it is important to undergo a full examination by a trained chiropractor or physiotherapist to help identify the exact route of your symptoms in order to receive the most appropriate care. At Bradley clinic all our chiropractors and physiotherapists are fully trained in examination of the these matters and will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
Dr Clíodhna Walsh DC