Q. My wrist hurts a lot and I often have numbness in my fingers. Over the past few weeks, I have starting waking up at night, because my wrist really hurts. Could it be carpal-tunnel syndrome?
— Bob, Filer
Answered by David Jensen, D.O., St. Luke’s Clinic, Physical Medicine and Rehab
Typical symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are numbness of the wrist, thumb, middle and sometimes the ring finger. Sometimes your whole hand is numb or you might just have pain in the wrist. You may also lose grip strength. It can also shoot pain up your wrist, and possible up your arm and shoulder. People get carpal tunnel syndrome for all sorts of reasons, but basically it is a repetitive use of the wrist. A couple of examples would be bailing hay, crocheting, or repetitive use of computer keyboard.
Another common problem with carpal tunnel syndrome is waking up at night in pain. You may be laying on that wrist or arm when you are sleeping, which put pressure on your wrist and can elevate the pain. You may feel the need to get up and “shake-out” your wrist to relieve some of the pain.
What exactly is carpal tunnel syndrome? Simply put, it is pressure on the nerve in your wrist, which is called the medium nerve. The wrist is a tunnel and is made up of the bones of your wrist on the bottom, then the tendon that moves your fingers and a ligament that goes over the top of the nerve. Repetitive motions and certain postures and positions of the wrist put more pressure on your nerve, which bend you wrist forward or backward. The nerve gets inflamed, swollen and starts to hurt. Before treatment, it is important to get a proper diagnosis. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one potential cause of wrist and hand pain and numbness. It could also be a pinched nerve in the neck or possibly arthritis. An evaluation of your wrist and/or arm with a nerve test can assist with proper diagnosis.
Treatment can be the use of a wrist splint, which keeps your wrist in a safe, neutral position. Wearing a splint at night can help protect your wrist. Anti-inflammatory pain medication, a steroid injection, or possibly surgery are all potential treatments.
Talk to your primary care physician to determine if you need to see a specialist to treat your problem.
Disclaimer: The content of this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Do not stop or delay seeking treatment because of something you read in this article.
Further, the views or opinions expressed in this article are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily represent those of St. Luke’s. Reliance on any information provided by St. Luke’s, St. Luke’s employees or others supplying information for the column at the invitation of St. Luke’s is solely at your own risk.