By J’ai Watson, AEP
The carpal tunnel is created by the transverse ligament that stretches across the lower palm. Nine flexor tendons, the median nerve, and blood vessels run through this passageway. When these ligaments swell they compress the median nerve and blood vessels. Extensive compression of the blood vessels and median nerve can cause blood flow restrictions as well as nerve damage.
Signs and symptoms associated with compression of the blood vessels and median nerve include pain, numbness, tingling, and decreased wrist/hand function. Some risk factors associated with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) include repetitive stress, physical injury, structural abnormalities, gender, and numerous medical conditions. It is possible to alleviate symptoms associated with CTS if detected early. However, once the myelin sheath (nerve insulation) begins deteriorating, permanent nerve damage occurs.
Typical treatment of CTS includes corticosteroid injections, splinting, exercises, and surgery. Notice surgery is labelled as a treatment and NOT A CURE. Surgery is performed to improve the function and symptoms of CTS. There is also a high risk of relapse after surgery as CTS can be progressive and worsen with time. Individuals who believe they have symptoms related to CTS should always consult their doctor, and think about exploiting the more conservative treatment methods before jumping into surgery.
University of Maryland Medical Center. 2013. “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.” Retrieved January 21, 2015 (http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/carpal-tunnel-syndrome).