Common Carpal Tunnel Symptoms (CTS)
Early detection and treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is important for success in treating this debilitating syndrome. However, some of the early symptoms are subtle and can be easily mistaken for other issues.
Most cases of CTS are unknown in origin though the condition is signalled by gradually increasing symptoms over time. A common factor in CTS is increased hand use or activity. Physiology and family history may be significant factors in a persons susceptibility to the condition. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is similar to Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome (TTS), though TTS occurs in your ankle, not your wrist.
Numbness and Tingling During Sleep
This is the most common initial symptom of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
When sleeping, you experience numbness and tingling in the hand and fingers that will cause you to wake up frequently during the night. Often, this symptom of CTS is mistakenly passed off as an effect caused by sleeping on your hands in an awkward position and thereby cutting off circulation. However, routine sleep interruption from any cause could be attributed to a serious health implication and you should definitely be seeking the advice of a physician. Without treatment, mild CTS symptoms will progress to chronic sleep loss.
Routine Sleep interruption has serious health implications and should be managed with a strong sense of urgency. For drivers and heavy equipment operators, the safety implications of routine sleep interruption and day time sleepiness requires immediate proactive therapy. Routine chronic sleep disorders have been linked directly to cardiopulmonary disease, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, heart arrhythmia, insulin resistance, vascular inflammation, migraines, psychological disorders, day time sleepiness, etc.
Pain in Hand, Wrist and Forearm / Loss of Feeling
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes compressed or squeezed at the wrist. Often, signs of this nerve compression can show itself as pain in the hand and wrist, loss of feeling in the fingers or thumb or as burning pain that radiates from the wrist up the center of the forearm -as far as the shoulder and neck. The pinky finger is not affected or controlled by the median Nerve nor is it generally associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Constant aching of the upper shoulder and neck is common in advanced cases as the pain follows the nerve path up to the nerve center in the brain.
Loss of Grip Strength / Atrophy
Eventualy, atrophy (the shortening of muscles / tendons due to low activity level or lack of use) will set in on the hand. This will result in problems such as difficulty gripping the steering wheel and overall decreasing grip strength. High levels of pain prevent you from fully utilizing and exercising your hand muscles; this will result in atrophy.
Poor Circulation / Clumsiness of the Hand
These symptoms can also be indicative of pressure on the median nerve or lack of blood flow in the hand due to soft tissue swelling in the wrist. Cold hands with warm forearms is also a symptom of poor blood circulation in or near the carpal tunnel area in the wrist. This poor blood circulation is a contributing factor to chronic Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Some of these symptoms are also common from factors outside of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome such as a broken or dislocated bone in the hand or wrist. Nearly half of CTS sufferers will have symptoms in both hands.
Sleep Interruption from Numb Hands
Many times, people suffering from early stages of Carpal Tunnel Strain mistakenly think they are sleeping in a position that cuts off blood circulation to the hand. However, if sleep interruption becomes routine from numb, tingling hands, then it is probable that this person suffers from the early stages of Carpal Tunnel Strain. Eventually, Carpal Tunnel Strain will lead to CTS if left unchecked.
Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be confirmed by a physician who will administer certain tests to detect impairment of the median nerve. Some of the tests are subjective - requiring feedback from the patient; others are purely scientific in nature, but more invasive and time consuming. Your physician will guide you based on your specific conditions and be able to tell you what stage of advancement you are in, and as such determine the most appropriate treatment for you. These treatment options will probably include specific stretches, perhaps a splint and most probably - the application of ultrasound over some period of time.
Depression is quite common among CTS sufferers, as hand dysfunction (due to CTS) can lead to lost earnings, time away from work and loss of self esteem as a contributor at work and at home. Once CTS has advanced into a chronic stage it can become nearly impossible to continue with daily activities that once seemed effortless.
If you are experiencing a combination of any of these symptoms, there is a high likelihood that you are in the early stages of Carpal Tunnel Strain or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent progression into chronic CTS and reverse the symptoms of CTS