If you experience tingling, numbness or pain in your hand, it might stem from a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome. Unlike arthritis, which is pain related to the joint, carpal tunnel syndrome pain comes from pressure on a nerve.
Specifically, the "carpal tunnel" is a passage from the forearm to the hand that holds the median nerve and several tendons. When pressure builds up and squeezes this nerve, the result can be the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome -- including pain, tingling and numbness in the hands and fingers.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
A variety of factors might contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, though an exact cause is not known. In some instances, it's related to injury or overuse. For example, laborers who use vibrating hand tools are at a higher risk. People with certain diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, may also be at a higher risk, as are pregnant women. Some people are simply born with a narrower carpal tunnel and are more disposed to getting the disorder.
In addition to the pain, tingling and numbness, people with carpal tunnel syndrome may have reduced grip strength and drop things frequently. Over time, those with severe carpal tunnel syndrome may lose sensation in their hand and also begin to lose muscle mass in their thumb
With mild cases, symptoms often can be minimized by changing the aggravating behaviors, wearing a splint to keep the wrist straight or sleeping in a night splint. Injections of corticosteroids are sometimes used to relieve pain and pressure in the carpal tunnel. In more severe situations, surgery to relieve the carpal tunnel syndrome is an option, though it can have some complications.
SOURCES: American Society for Surgery of the Hand; U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke