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Could It Be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Oct 2015
Dr Anita Rao
Orthopaedic Surgeon, Portland

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common cause of hand numbness and pain. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage that traverses from the wrist deep in to the palm of the hand. The symptoms result from compression of a nerve (median nerve) that lies within the carpal tunnel. When the nerve gets compressed, there is numbness or tingling of the thumb, index finger, middle finger and part of the ring finger. One may also experience weakness and pain in the hand, wrist, or forearm.

The symptoms usually come and go in the beginning stages but as the severity increases, numbness or tingling may be more constant and often more common at night. People report feeling clumsy and often drop objects more frequently and have trouble gripping objects like a phone, pencil, newspaper, steering wheel etc.

Certain conditions can increase risks of developing CTS, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, pregnancy, trauma and thyroid imbalance, amongst others. CTS is also more common in women and in older individuals. There can be hereditary or anatomic factors at play as well and some people naturally have a smaller, tighter carpal tunnel.

In many cases, a clear cut cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is not always identified.

Manual labour requiring a forceful grip or usage of vibrational construction equipment may also contribute to CTS. Some experts have suggested that other workplace factors involving repetitive movements or computer usage can also contribute to the development of this ailment.

The scientific evidence available is conflicting and as yet, there is no definitive correlation between these factors. While not conclusively proven, it is widely believed that activity involving the hands that require repetition and force, especially for prolonged periods of time and certain positions like wrist bending (flexion), could contribute to CTS.