carpal tunnel syndrome

The hands numb at night, the thumb feel weak: the carpal tunnel syndrome is widely spread but frequently not sufficiently taken serious. Those who simply ignore the symptoms take their risk of irreversibly damaging their nerve and muscles.

About one in ten Germans has already been suffering from the carpal tunnel syndrome whereas women are by three times more frequently affected than men are. Most patients are between 40 and 70 years old when they first suffer from this condition - which, in its early stages, mainly causes problems at night: the patients wake up and feel pain from their hand all the way up to their upper arm or their hand has numbed. When the affected limb is being shook, the pain and tingling sensation go away.

What exactly is the carpal tunnel?

Each arm is supplied by three nerves that are responsible for our motor function (i.e. the movements we make) and sensory system (i.e. the sense of touch and feel).  The median arm nerve (Nervis medianus) controls the sense of touch and feel on the hand’s inner surface. In terms of motor functions, it is responsible for a thumb muscle. 

Said Nervus medianus stretches from shoulder across upper arm and forehand. At the wrist inside, it passes the so-called carpal tunnel. This narrow tunnel at the wrist is formed by the wrist bone and a taut connective tissue ligament. Except for the finger sinews, the tunnel also accommodates the Nervus medianus, which is composed of sensible and motoric fibres as well as specific muscles of the hand, responsible for palms and fingers.

If this nerve is being compressed or even jammed, we suffer from the symptoms specified above. If these conditions persist, the nerve might be damaged.

In early stages, the related complaints will be of rather sensory nature. For instance, the affected hand might feel like tingling. Later on, motoric problems - such as reduced power of the thumb - can also occur. So, the symptoms range from slight paraesthesia all the way to permanent paralysis.