Hand nerve entrapment is one of the most common injuries among adults — and many people live with the symptoms without ever realizing that they have the condition.
Carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndrome are the two most common peripheral hand nerve entrapment conditions, with 1 in 6 adults suffering from carpal tunnel while 1 in 13 adults suffer from cubital tunnel syndrome. These nerve entrapment conditions can affect one’s daily life and make it difficult to do even simple tasks.
It is important to know what these conditions are and how to prevent them.
What is Nerve Entrapment?
There are multiple nerves that run through the hand and into the wrist, connecting to muscles, which help bend the fingers, thumb and wrist. If a nerve is stretched or compressed — or “entrapped” — by a bone, muscle or any other tissue, it can cause pain, weakness and other symptoms.
Carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel are types of hand nerve entrapment syndromes. Caused by daily use of the hands and wrists, carpal and cubital tunnel syndromes can be easily prevented and treated with some guidance from an experienced orthopedic specialist.
Diagnosing and Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel — an opening in the wrist that is formed by the carpal bones along the bottom of the wrist and the transverse carpal ligament that runs across the top of the wrist.
The median nerve is responsible for the sensation of the thumb and three middle fingers.
The condition is often caused by repetitive motions, such as typing, writing or playing a sport.
Symptoms include pain in the finger, wrist or hand, sensation that the wrist is swollen (even if it is not), weakened grip and numbness.
To prevent carpal tunnel, reduce the force needed to perform tasks like typing and writing, take frequent breaks and stretch the fingers, hand and wrist during repetitive tasks (like typing on a keyboard). Also avoid bending the wrist all the way down. Keeping hands warm can help the muscles in the hand and wrist stay loose.
Diagnosing and Preventing Cubital Tunnel Syndrome
Cubital tunnel syndrome is less common than carpal tunnel syndrome, but still affects thousands of adults each year. Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the narrow tube of tissue at the elbow swells and traps the ulnar nerve. Often caused by strain from a sport, consistently resting the elbow on a hard surface for an extended period, or from a fracture or injury.
Symptoms include tingling in the ring and pinky fingers, numbness in the ring and pinky fingers, and weakness in the hand.
To prevent cubital tunnel syndrome, limit activities that might strain the nerve, do not lean on the elbow, and avoid falls and direct impacts to the elbow, or keeping the elbow bent for extended periods, as in talking on the phone.
If pain, numbness or weakness in your hand, wrist or elbow is impacting your daily life, specialized care is available in west Georgia and east Alabama at Tanner Ortho and Spine Center.
You can find an orthopedic specialist on staff by calling 770-214-CARE (2273) at any time or visit TannerOrtho.org to learn more.