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My fingers get numb. Carpal tunnel?

Updated: Jun 2, 2021

There is a good chance. This is a compression neuropathy. The median nerve which provides sensation to the thumb, index, long, and thumb side of the ring finger and power to some of the muscles in the hand gets squeezed where it passes through the wrist, the carpal tunnel.

Most commonly (3 times increased incidence) this occurs in women in midlife probably because of hormonal changes but also in the general population for other reasons.

These include trauma, such as a single event that causes protracted swelling in the wrist or repetitive demanding activity that requires forceful use of the hand. It’s not the unusual for an amateur carpenter to experience carpal tunnel following building a deck or splitting the cord of wood.

It may also be the presenting symptom of an overactive pituitary gland, and underactive thyroid gland or unrecognized diabetes.

If the symptoms follow an injury or unusual activity, give them a month or so to resolve. If they persist, see an orthopedic surgeon. A significant percentage of the time the condition can be eliminated with 1 or 2 minimally uncomfortable cortisone injections. Minor surgery may be necessary and is highly successful.

Most importantly, however, don’t allow this to go untreated. Prolonged compression of the nerve can result in permanent damage and an incomplete recovery.

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