What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that occurs when there is too much pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the wrist. As a result, there is usually aching, numbness or tingling in the thumb, some of the fingers (index and middle predominantly), and sometimes part of the hand.
Weakness of the small muscles at the base of the thumb may also occur.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow rigid passageway or channel in the palm side of the wrist. The bones of the wrist are arranged in a semi-circle, and a tough ligament (the carpal ligament) forms a roof over them. This creates a passageway – the carpal tunnel. Running though the carpal tunnel are tendons that bend (flex) the fingers and wrist, and the median nerve. This is one of two nerves that allow feeling in the palm side of the hand. The median nerve also controls some of the hand muscles, the most important of which controls certain thumb movements.
There is little room for expansion in the carpal tunnel. If swelling of the tissues in or around the tunnel occurs, the tunnel becomes narrowed. This leads to pressure or squeezing of the median nerve, causing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.