A common condition, carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by aching, numbness or tingling in the thumb, fingers and sometimes the hand.
It is increasingly common, and while it can develop at any age, it is most common among people in their 40s and 50s. Carpal tunnel syndrome is triggered by repetitive activities, often by something you do repeatedly at work.
It occurs when the nerves and tendons that we use to bend the fingers and wrist are impinged as they run through the narrow opening at the wrist. Any swelling in this area can reduce this space and affect the median nerve, causing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
While the causes are somewhat disputed, it seems that repeated activities such as typing, knitting, manufacturing work, using small tools or repeatedly using scissors can cause it. People who use vibrating tools are particularly at risk.
Previous sprains of breaks to the wrist can increase the chances of this complaint, as can fluid retention, which creates pressure in the tunnel.
Fluid retention can be due to pregnancy, kidney failure, or an under-active thyroid.
Treatment centres on reducing the pressure on the median nerve. Common treatments include wrist splints, worn at night, or both day and night, and the use of ice packs. Stretching can also help to relieve symptoms and keep the area mobile.
It is also important to figure out what activity caused the problem in the first place, and try and avoid these actions.