What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? How Do I Know If I Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?


Carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness or tingling in your fingers or hand and may cause a pain from the wrist that seems to shoot into your forearm or palm. The pain may be worse at night. Carpal is from a Greek word that means "wrist" -- and the carpal tunnel is just what it sounds like, a passageway or tunnel through your wrist that protects nerves and tendons. The median nerve, which affects feeling in your thumb and all your fingers except your little finger, passes through the carpal tunnel. When the tunnel becomes swollen, your median nerve is pinched or compressed.

The key to an accurate diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome is that the little finger is not affected, because the median nerve isn't connected to this finger. Two simple tests that you can do at home, Tinel's test and Phalen's test, which I explain in chapter 2 (page 20), help diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. A medical test called an electromyogram will show if electrical impulses going along the median nerve slow down in the carpal tunnel. If they do, your median nerve is probably compressed. I have found this test to be highly invasive and painful, and it can actually prolong the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. An alternative is a device called the Neuronmeter CPT/C that measures nerve sensitivity and may catch problems before they develop into carpal tunnel syndrome. Your health care provider or your company may use this machine to screen for potential carpal tunnel problems. (For more information contact Specialty Therapy Equipment, 800-999-7839.)

Fluctuations in hormone levels that cause swelling or bloating, such as during pregnancy, menopause, or stages of the menstrual cycle, may make carpal tunnel syndrome worse.

Kate Montgomery.


By Kate Montgomery

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