This is how you get carpal tunnel syndrome

January 29, 2018 | by Alison Sage, D.O.
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

At first, you might notice some pain, numbness or tingling in your fingers that comes and goes.

You might also experience weakness in your hand — to the point where you actually drop something.

Gradually the symptoms become more frequent, sometimes sending pain shooting from your hand up into your forearm or even your shoulder.

The cause could be carpal tunnel syndrome.

Your carpal tunnel is a small passageway in your wrist for your median nerve and tendons that connect to your fingers. When that passageway narrows, it puts pressure on the nerve, causing the painful symptoms.

It takes a perfect storm of conditions to bring on carpal tunnel. Often there is no single cause, which makes prevention difficult.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers a list of potential risk factors, including:

  • Heredity. The carpal tunnel may be smaller in some people or there may be anatomic differences that change the amount of space for the nerve — and these traits can run in families.
  • Repetitive hand use. Repeating the same hand and wrist motions or activities over a prolonged period of time may aggravate the tendons in the wrist, causing swelling that puts pressure on the nerve.
  • Hand and wrist position. Doing activities that involve extreme flexion or extension of the hand and wrist for a prolonged period of time can increase pressure on the nerve.
  • Pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause swelling.
  • Health conditions. Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance are conditions that are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Physicians often recommend non-surgical therapies before surgery. Our board-certified orthopedic specialists and physical and occupational therapists will work with you to resolve your issue using splints/casts, steroid injections, anti-inflammatory medication or other non-surgical therapies.

Plantar fasciitis is another common ailment. It’s similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in that it doesn’t have one definitive cause.

The plantar fascia is a ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot along the bottom of your foot. When the ligament is irritated, it can cause pain in your heel and stiffness in your foot.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons lists several risk factors for this condition as well, including:

  • Tighter calf muscles that make it difficult to flex your foot and bring your toes up toward your shin
  • Obesity
  • Very high arch
  • Repetitive impact activity (running/sports)
  • New or increased activity

Plantar fasciitis is also primarily treated with nonsurgical therapies, including rest, ice, medication and exercise. Most cases of plantar fasciitis are healed through nonsurgical means.

If you think you may have carpal tunnel syndrome or plantar fasciitis, see your primary care physician for an exam.

Learn about orthopedic services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Your doctor is your Healthy Driven partner. Find the right primary care physician for you and your family.

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