C is for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What is this condition?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition where the median nerve (the one which innervates your thumb, first three fingers and half of the fourth finger) is compressed as it passes through the tunnel of bones and soft tissues at the wrist.

Swelling around the wrist or flexor tendons can be contributing factors; pressure is placed on the nerve as it passes through the tunnel. Fluid retention during pregnancy or obesity can increase the risk of this condition because the size of the tunnel is reduced, again, putting pressure on the nerve. The other major contributing factor is repetitive movements (or chronic overuse) of the wrist flexor muscles causing inflammation or fibrotic build up around the carpal tunnel. People who consistently grip an object during work or sport can also be susceptible – for example musicians, racket sport players, painters, writers or anyone whose daily life includes a lot of driving.

Signs and symptoms
You might experience numbness, burning or tingling, itching, pain (in the hand, wrist or extending up to the elbow) or loss of function in the affected fingers. In severe cases the muscles of the thumb can waste causing weakness and problems grasping objects. Often the pain is made worse by repeated movements, or holding the wrist in a flexed position for a period of time.

The key issue with this condition is finding out what caused the onset, and then working out how to remove or reduce those factors. In severe cases a splint may need to be worn to stabilise the affected wrist but medical advice should be sought from a GP or occupational health practitioner first. In most cases, when this condition is caused by fluid retention, lymphatic drainage and massage can help disperse the accumulated fluids and ease the pain. Massage treatments will also help to reduce tension in the soft tissues (fascia, tendons and muscles) thereby reducing the pain and symptoms felt.

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