Carpal tunnel syndrome: what you need to know
Carpal tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the main nerve that runs through the wrist. Symptoms include numbness, pins and needles and pain and weakness in the hand. Anything that causes swelling inside the wrist, such as fluid retention during pregnancy, can lead to the condition.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

Numbness and pain (especially at night) are the most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. One or both hands can be affected (although not the little finger) and, if the disorder progresses unchecked, sufferers may be unable to properly use or move their thumb, and may experience difficulties trying to pick things up.

Other symptoms include

  • Pins and needles
  • Sharp pains from the wrist
  • Arm and shoulder pain
  • Hand weakness

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by these factors

  • Pregnancy – fluid retention during pregnancy can put pressure on the nerve in the wrist, resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome, which usually goes away after birth.
  • Wrist fractures
  • Repetitive strain – people who use their hands repetitively at work may be more at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Arthritis – even though pain may be minimal in the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome, if you don’t seek help, symptoms will often increase until your hand is painful most of the time, sometimes resulting in permanent damage.

Here are some ways to treat the condition

  • Try to avoid any repetitive movements that make the symptoms worse
  • Physiotherapy
  • Wrist splint
  • Cortisone injections or tablets
  • Fluid tablets

Surgery can work

If your doctor considers it necessary, surgery can reduce the pressure on your hand and wrist. A small incision is made in the palm of your hand and the ligament is cut to reduce pressure on the nerve. You’ll need to rest your hand afterwards and pain relief can be immediate or happen over time.

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This article was written by Joanna Bounds for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz

Last revised: Tuesday, 2 December 2014

This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.