Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Your Questions Answered

This article details the ways in which your GP can diagnose and treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Read on to find out more!

1. What is carpal tunnel?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by nerves being compressed as they move through the carpal tunnel in your wrist. 

2. What causes it?

The compression can occur as a result of any process which increases pressure around this part of the wrist and therefore the median nerve. The most common cause of this is repetitive use of the hands, such as typing, driving or working with vibrating machinery, but it can also be caused by arthritis, pregnancy or tumours.

3. What symptoms may I experience?

The symptoms you can expect to experience include pain and numbness. This is usually felt along the thumb side of the palm, then up into the index finger and middle finger. The pain may be occasional and acute or constant low-level irritation.

4. How can your GP diagnose the condition?

Your GP will usually diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome based on the symptoms. Tests that may be used include electromyography (EMG) or ultrasound scans.

5. What tests will I need?

There are no specific investigations for carpal tunnel syndrome that you would expect to have during your diagnosis. Some tests may be performed to exclude other conditions if everything points towards carpal tunnel syndrome, but no clear evidence is found. However, more specific investigation techniques may be used if there is any concern about the severity of your condition and to determine which treatment options would be most appropriate.

6. What types of treatment are available?

The two main treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are surgery or a programme of steroid injections into the wrist. In addition, other treatments include splints, physiotherapy and occupational therapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If you have received a diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome, it might be worth considering the following things.

It would help if you rest your wrist as much as possible for a few days — a compression bandage may be useful to help you do this. Try not to grip things too tightly — try using a light grip or, even better, an ergonomically designed device that supports the weight of the tool you are using. If typing at work is causing you problems, speak with your employer about having the keyboard layout changed to place less strain on your wrists 

If you have any other questions, contact your doctor today.