This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, tingling, and numbness in your hand from pressure on the median nerve in your wrist.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The carpal tunnel which houses the median nerve and tendons, is a narrow, rigid passageway of ligaments and tendons at the base of the hand. The thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the median nerve to be compressed. This may show up as pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist. It can also radiate up the arm.
Car accidents can cause trauma induced carpal tunnel syndrome according to Dr. Elliot L. Ames. Ames is a clinical assistant professor of surgery, division of orthopedic surgery, School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey.
The injury can occur when the hand is braced on the steering wheel at the time of a front or rear- end collision. The base of the thumb can be injured by the steering wheel and the carpal tunnel is in close proximity to the base of the thumb. It is reasonable to determine that the carpal tunnel takes blunt trauma during impact.
Symptoms may not occur immediately after the accident. In a study published by Gregory Mack M.D., Scott McPherson M.D., and Bruce Lutz M.D., symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome developed in 96 patients within 2 months or later following a car accident.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be diagnosed with two different tests. The first test is the Tinel test, where the doctor taps on or presses on the median nerve in the patient’s wrist. If there is tingling in the fingers or a shock like sensation, then the test it positive.
The second test is the Phalen or wrist-flexion test. This involves having the patient hold his or her forearms upright by pointing the fingers down and pressing the backs of the hands together. Carpal tunnel syndrome is present if one or more of the symptoms is present such as tingling and numbness is felt in the fingers with in one minute.
The diagnosis can be confirmed with the use of an electrodiagnostic test or nerve conduction study where the electrodes are placed on the hand and wrist. Small electric shocks are applied and the speed with which the nerve transmit impulses is measured. An electromyography is where a fine needle is inserted into a muscle. Electrical activity viewed on a screen can determine how severe the damage is to the median nerve. Ultrasound imaging can show impaired movement of the median nerve as well.
If you have pain, tingling, and numbness in your wrist or arm seek medical attention right away. If you are told it is your back or neck causing this pain, you should get a second opinion. It might not be your back at all, but you might have carpal tunnel syndrome caused by a recent car accident.