Neurology for the Tingling Hand: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosis & Treatment
This article first appeared in February 2018. Updated May 2023.
Do you sometimes feel pain or numbness in your wrist? What about a tingling sensation in your fingers? You may be right if you’ve thought such discomforts are due to fatigue. But there might be something more to the situation. You may be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
CTS makes for an interesting neurology case. While it involves the median nerve, it does not necessarily mean you have a problem with your nervous system.
The median nerve provides sensation and control to most of the hand. It runs from the forearm into the palm, passing through a space called the carpal tunnel. Located in the wrist, this “tunnel” is surrounded by tendons and ligaments.
CTS occurs when these tendons and ligaments become inflamed. They swell, thicken, and press upon the median nerve, causing possible symptoms from tingling sensations, to numbness, to weakness.
Your likelihood of developing CTS depends on your job or your health condition.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is an occupational hazard
Three of the most common factors linked to the syndrome are:
- Using the hand frequently and repeatedly for small movements
- Using the hand frequently and repeatedly to grasp objects
- Using the hands in such a way that puts pressure on the wrists
This makes people like gardeners, mechanics, carpenters, and assembly-line workers particularly susceptible to CTS, given their regular handling of tools. Musicians, painters, and writers also commonly suffer from the syndrome; as do athletes, like badminton players, golfers, or bowlers.
The strain on the wrists and fingers from computer use has also been linked to CTS, making almost everyone in the modern workforce vulnerable to its symptoms.
Part and parcel of disease
Age and medical history also play a part in CTS. The syndrome is known to occur in people with arthritis, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. It may also be an effect of hormonal and metabolic disorders that affect the nervous system, as well as changes in blood sugar levels due to diseases like diabetes.
Of course, any sprains, dislocations, and fractures around the wrist can also spark the inflammation that causes CTS.
Help from a neurology clinic
You may visit Dr. Sarbjot Dulai for questions, diagnosis, treatment, and advice about CTS. If you do have this condition, he can help you by prescribing pain relievers or a splint to ease pressure on your median nerve. Under his guidance, you would also embark on a routine to address and prevent the syndrome: take breaks, apply cool packs, and make ergonomic improvements to benefit your hand.
If needed, Dr. Dulai can also recommend a neurological surgeon to help you, should surgery be your best option. A surgeon would cut a ligament around the wrist to decrease pressure on the nerve; upon growing back, the ligament is expected to grow at a more comfortable distance away from it.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet, NINDS.NIH.gov
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: What is carpal tunnel syndrome? ColumbiaNeurology.org