Carpal tunnel syndrome has become more well-known in recent decades. The condition — considered a type of repetitive stress injury — affects between 2-6 percent of the U.S. working adult population.
If you are currently experiencing wrist or hand pain, you may wonder whether you are developing carpal tunnel syndrome. But how can you know?
First, recognize that it is always wise to see a doctor early on if you are experiencing any type of joint pain so you can be properly diagnosed. Second, keep in mind that it can be very helpful to document your symptoms — that way, you will have helpful information your doctor can consider when he or she is examining you to determine whether you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome involves compression of the nerve which runs down the inside of the arm and hand. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome vary, but include:
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers, particularly the first and middle finger, and the thumb
- Pins and needles sensation
- Impaired thumb and finger dexterity
- Pain that extends up to the shoulder
- Swelling or weakness in the hand
- Pain in the thumb that extends into the wrist area
- Inability to move fingers without wrist pain
- Gradual onset of symptoms
- Symptoms that worsen at night
People at Higher Risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
People who are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome include those who frequently use hand tools that vibrate, such as drills, or perform work that requires repetitive motion, such as cleaning, sewing, meat packing or data entry. Women are more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosis and Treatment
Here are some tests a physician may use to determine whether a patient has carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Tapping on the wrist with a reflex hammer to determine if there is tingling in the fingers
- Having patient grip an object to check thumb strength and movement
- Having patient press the backs of hands and fingers together for several minutes to check for tingling
If you are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor may recommend a non-surgical treatment, such as icing the area or taking an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen. If these treatments do not help, your doctor may recommend a cortisone injection, or if your condition is severe, carpal tunnel release surgery.