Please note, this page is printable by selecting the normal print options on your computer.
There are three nerves which supply sensation to the hand, these are; the radial nerve, ulnar nerve and the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve in the wrist. The median nerve travels down the arm into the hand supplying, sensation to the thumb, index, middle and part of the ring finger. As it enters the hand the nerve passes through the “carpal tunnel”; this is a tunnel formed by the wrist bones and a ligament.
In carpal tunnel syndrome pressure is put on the median nerve as it travels through the tunnel. This results in pins and needles, numbness or even pain in the thumb, fingers and sometimes the forearm. Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms often occur in the early hours of the morning, because as we sleep we have a natural tendency to curl our wrists which increases the pressure in the carpal tunnel. In addition a build up of fluid in the body (e.g. in pregnancy) can also cause extra pressure on the nerve.
Diagnosis can be made through a description of symptoms and diagnostic tests. Your GP may wish to discuss with you a possible referral to an Orthopaedic Consultant and it may also be suggested that you have nerve conductions studies done.
If your symptoms interfere with normal function and the nerve conduction studies are positive indicating the median nerve is trapped, a simple operation is indicated.
Hand Therapy Treatment
A wrist splint may be issued by the hand therapist to ease your symptoms while you sleep.
Splint Wear and Care
• Carpal tunnel splints should only be worn while you are sleeping, or as directed by the hand therapist. It is important NOT to wear them constantly as this will affect your hand power.
• The straps of the splint should be done up over the back of the arm (see picture below).
• The metal insert should run along the inside of the arm onto the palm of the hand.
• The splint should not restrict any finger or thumb movement.
• Splints can be washed in warm water, but the metal bar should be removed.
When replacing the bar ensure it is placed into the pocket the correct way and that it is inserted into the internal fold to prevent it sliding out.
If you have any problems or concerns regarding your splint the hand therapy unit will be happy to help.