If you have recently been enduring frequent hand and finger numbness, tingling, or burning sensations, you may be experiencing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpal tunnel runs from the forearm into the hand and allows passage of the median nerve and multiple tendons into the base of the hand. Our median nerve provides sensation into our palm, thumb, index, middle, and ring finger. Therefore, when we feel loss of sensation to these areas it is the first sign that there may be something going on in an individual’s carpal tunnel. There are multiple ways and reasons that you could develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Most often it is due to some type of trauma or overuse of the wrist which causes inflammation or enlargement of the structures within the carpal tunnel. Since the carpal tunnel is a small passageway, when any structure becomes enlarged it can cause the median nerve to become compressed. This can result in entrapment neuropathy, which simply means the compressed nerve cannot function properly and it is causing the hand to feel weak, numb, and tingling.
What are the Symptoms?
- Frequent tingling, numbness, and weakness in the thumb, index, middle and ring finger.
- Decreased grip strength
- Sensation needed to “shake out” your hand and wrist, especially after sleeping.
- Difficulties to form a fist
- Struggling with fine motor tasks that you did not use to before like grasping small objects such as writing with a pen
What are Risk Factors for the Syndrome?
- Women are up to five times more likely to experience carpal tunnel syndrome
- Having pre-existing nerve damaging condition such as diabetes
- Previous wrist fracture or dislocation
- Diagnosed with an inflammatory condition
- Changes in the balance of bodily fluids which is common during pregnancy and menopause
- Occupation, depending on the type of activities performed everyday with your job
Why should I get an Ultrasound?
When you present at the doctor’s office with these symptoms and they suspect that it may be carpal tunnel syndrome, the doctor will need to confirm their suspicions with some type of diagnostic imaging. An ultrasound is a safe technique that will allow the doctor to get a visualization of the structures within the carpal tunnel. They will be able to evaluate if there is any swelling, fluid, or enlargement of structures which may be compressing in on the median nerve. There is nothing you need to do to prepare for your ultrasound. However, you will be asked to remove any jewellery such as bracelets, watches, or anything else that may be on the wrist. As well, it is asked that you wear a T-shirt so your wrist is easily accessible for the procedure. The technician will place conductive gel on your wrist and use a probe to move around the jelly in order to get an image. The ultrasound will last approximately 30 minutes. For any further questions please contact your family doctor before your scheduled appointment.