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What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that can be both debilitating as well as painful. People in all sorts industries and workplaces can experience this condition, especially those frequently using hand tools or computer equipment. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers the following information, including risk factors and what to look for in terms of symptoms.

What is the carpal tunnel?

Within the wrist is the carpal tunnel, which is a passageway in which the median nerve is located. This nerve begins in the neck and extends down into the arm, through the wrist, and into the hand. The median nerve connects to index, middle, and ring fingers, as well as the thumb.

What are some risk factors?

While there is some debate on why carpal tunnel occurs, it usually results from a combination of issues. Repetitive hand motion is thought to play a role, as this can cause the passageway surrounding the median nerve to swell. Certain anatomical traits that make carpal tunnel more likely can also occur within families, which means the condition may be hereditary. Other risk factors include hand and wrist positioning, conditions like arthritis, and even pregnancy.

What symptoms should I look for?

Carpal tunnel is characterized by pain in the wrist that can also cause problems in the forearm or even the shoulder. People also experience a tingling or burning sensation, or even a numb feeling. The hand and wrist may also feel weak over time, and this can lead to problems handling items. While symptoms may be minimal at first, they tend to get worse over time. 

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