There are 3 nerves– the median nerve, ulnar nerve, and radial nerve, that run through your hand with each nerve responsible for different functions. The median nerve helps you to move your hands, some fingers (thumb, index, middle, and part of the ring finger), forearm, and wrist.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects your wrists and hands. It is caused by pressure on the median nerve, which runs through a narrow passageway in your wrist called the carpal tunnel (formed by bones and ligaments).
When the median nerve is compressed or squeezed by the structures in the carpal tunnel, it can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve in your wrist is compressed or squeezed repeatedly over a period of time, resulting in pain, numbness, and tingling in your fingers and hands.
Causes of narrowed or inflamed carpal tunnel include:
Fractures:fractures of the wrist can cause the carpal tunnel to become irritated and inflamed, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Medical conditions:diabetes, high blood pressure, fluid retention, etc, have been linked to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Arthritis: the main characteristic of arthritis is joint inflammation. This inflammation can cause narrowing and inflammation of the carpal tunnel, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
Numbness, pain, or tingling in your hand, wrist and/or fingers (especially your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers)
Pins-and-needles sensation in your hand(s)
Difficulty grasping objects
Dropping things frequently
Discomfort or pain in your forearm or upper arm
Feeling of swelling or a sensation that your fingers are swollen despite looking normal
Worsening symptoms at night
Difficulty with fine motor tasks
If you notice any of the symptoms, make an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Dr Puah KL is our Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Artisan Sports & Orthopaedic Surgery. He used to serve the sports service of Singapore General Hospital - the highest volume trauma centre for orthopaedics in Singapore.
Yes. Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterised by pain in your hand, wrist, and fingers – particularly the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.
Additionally, you may feel a burning or pins-and-needles sensation, accompanied by weakness or difficulty grasping objects.
Who is at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome in Singapore?
Anyone in Singapore can develop carpal tunnel syndrome, with some being at higher risk than others.
Individuals with the following factors are at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome:
Gender: women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
Age: the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome increases as you age.
Repetitive motion: individuals who spend a lot of time on the computer and performing repetitive hand or wrist motions are at a high risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Medical conditions: individuals with diabetes, hypothyroidism, and rheumatoid arthritis are more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome.
You can reduce your risks of developing carpal tunnel syndrome by taking regular breaks and practising proper ergonomics.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?
Diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome involves the following:
Physical examination: to check for signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, you will be required to perform specific hand and wrist movements to see if they exacerbate your symptoms. This is known as the wrist-flexion test or Phalen’s manoeuvre/test. Your hand strength and sensation will also be tested.
Electromyogram (EGM): an EMG is often conducted and would be necessary if an incidence of impinged nerves is suspected.