Our expert says:
Carpal Tunnel (CT) is quite common amongst folk that spend a fair bit of time on the computer.
CT is actually compression of the median nerve, at the carpal tunnel in the wrist. The median nerve originates in the neck and travels all the way down the arm to innervate primarily the middle and index fingers as well as part of the thumb and part of the 4th finger.
CT is usually experienced as either or any of the following, pain, tingling, a pins and needles sensation and numbness in those fingers and parts of the hand and if severe one can also experience 'clumsiness' (drop things easily) and even atrophy of the muscles of the hand.
The symptoms are typically worse at night and improve when one changes position of the hand.
Pain in the arm is not usually a symptom of Carpal Tunnel.
The symptoms can usually be reproduced or exacerbated by putting the wrist into a position that increases the compression of the nerve and relieved by changing position. If the symptoms are not positional it may be that the problem lies else where. Other causes of hand / arm pain include nerve compression in the neck, trigger points in the neck muscles, tendinitis of the tendons in the lower wrist / arm and occasionally increased fluid retention (common in pregnancy).
The diagnosis is usually made clinically from the presenting symptoms, but a neurologist can perform nerve conduction tests to make a definitve diagnosis.
Conservative treatment includes rest by immobilization of the wrist (wrist guard), anti inflammatories, ice treament, chiropractic or physiotherapy and if this doesn't resolve the problem surgery may be required to release the flexor retinaculum, the structure that 'traps' the nerve.
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