If you are experiencing aching, numbness or pain in your wrists and hand then you could be dealing with carpal or ulnar tunnel syndrome.
The purpose of the carpal tunnel, which is comprised of bone and ligaments, is to protect the median nerve as it passes through. When the median nerve is compressed carpal tunnel syndrome occurs.
Ulnar tunnel syndrome, also referred to as cubital tunnel syndrome, is the second most common nerve entrapment condition. The ulnar nerve starts at the shoulder and extends down the arm into the hand. When the ulnar nerve is compressed around the cubital tunnel (which is located in the elbow) it causes ulnar or cubital tunnel syndrome.
There are many causes for carpal or ulnar tunnel syndrome including heredity, repetitive hand or arm movements, injuries (e.g. fractures or sprains) and other medical disorders (e.g. arthritis, thyroid problems; diabetes).
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
- Numbness or tingling in the palm of the hand, as well as the fingers and thumb
- Pain or discomfort in the wrist, hand or forearm during activity
- Muscle weakness, which can also affect grip strength
- Symptoms of ulnar tunnel syndrome include,
- Weakness, numbness or tingling in the last two fingers or palm
- Pain at the elbow, palm or last two fingers, particularly seen with an increase inactivity
- Elbow joint tenderness
- Your orthopedic surgeon will go through your medical history and perform a physical exam to determine whether your symptoms are due to carpal tunnel syndrome or ulnar tunnel syndrome. Sometimes imaging tests such as X-rays will also be performed.
Both carpal tunnel and ulnar tunnel syndrome are treated with more conservative approaches like rest, modifying certain wrist and hand movements, wearing a brace or splint, taking medications and taking part in physical therapy.
If you don’t see an improvement in your symptoms then a procedure known as carpal tunnel release will be performed (if you have ulnar tunnel syndrome a similar procedure will be performed to release the entrapped ulnar nerve). By enlarging the carpal or ulnar tunnel we can effectively treat your nerve entrapment and eliminate your symptoms.