Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Wrist FAQ

Question:

I've had carpal tunnel syndrome for about six weeks now. I'm finding the worst thing is that I can't button my buttons. But I'm not sure exactly why I can't do this anymore. What's happening to me?

Answer:

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is often accompanied by numbness and tingling of the fingers affected by the compressed or pinched median nerve. When there is no numbness, there can still be pain and loss of strength contributing to the problem. In fact, a recent study showed that patients with CTS lose their ability to make a precise pinching motion needed for fine motor skills like buttoning buttons. Compared with normal adults who did not have CTS, the CTS group had a wide range of differences in their pinching ability. The result was a lack of manual dexterity and increased clumsiness. It's likely that this negative effect of CTS increases as the symptoms increase in severity. Precise pinch movements, thumb and finger coordination, and thumb strength were less impaired with mild-to-moderate CTS. You could possibly benefit from some nonoperative intervention. A hand therapist could help you regain motion, strength, and coordination. Sometimes there are postural issues contributing to the problem. Splinting and modifying activities may help. Nerve and tendon gliding exercises can help free the movement of the median nerve that is often compressed or pinched causing CTS. Early intervention is advised to avoid long-term or chronic problems with permanent impairment. Sebastian Gehrmann, MD, et al. Variability of Precision Pinch Movements Caused By Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. September 2008. Vol. 33A. No. 7. Pp. 1069-1075.

*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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