Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

I was just diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. I understand there's pressure on the nerve causing the burning pain and numbness. But why do I have trouble picking things up?

Answer:

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed or flattened as it travels through a tunnel formed by the bones of the wrist. Pressure in the form of mechanical compression also causes a loss of blood supply to the nerve. This loss of oxygen and nutrients is called ischemia.

The longer the pressure and ischemia are present, the more likely it is that symptoms will develop. Symptoms vary because the nerve has both sensory and motor function. Compromise of nerve function results in painful burning, numbness, and tingling. Impaired motor function is linked with muscle weakness and atrophy.

The specific symptoms and symptom severity depend on which fibers of the nerve are affected most. Electrodiagnostic tests such as nerve conduction velocity (NCV) or electromyography (EMG) can be done to find out where the nerve is affected. This type of testing can help determine when surgery might be needed. Bayram Kaymak, MD, et al. A Comparison of the Benefits of Sonography and Electrophysiologic Measurements as Predictors of Symptom Severity and Funcitonal Status in Patients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. April 2008. Vol. 89. No. 4. Pp. 743-748.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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