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Good Hand Health Tips

Carpal Tunnel and Hand Anatomy

How does knowing the carpal tunnel anatomy help?

“When you know better you do better.” -Maya Angelou

If the mystery of anatomy is understood, then self-care is easier. If the mystery of the healing process is understood, then it’s easier to feel better.

What composes the hand anatomy?

Given all that your hands and wrists do for you, it’s understandable that they have a complicated design. The carpal tunnel on the palm side of your wrist is a busy passageway. This space within your hand anatomy has five anatomical parts:

  • Tendons
  • Median Nerve
  • Synovial Fluid and Blood
  • Connective Tissue
  • Bones

Nine tendons and the median nerve pass through the narrow, rigid, boney carpal tunnel in your wrist. The synovial fluid (secreted by the synovium tissue) and blood bring nutrients to the tendons and nerves.

A tough band of connective tissue wraps it all together. Connective tissue, also known as fascia, is the white film you see around a piece of raw chicken breast. Connective tissue surrounds your wrist and is also continuous with all the tendons, muscles and ligaments of your forearm. Anatomist, Gil Headley, says connective tissue is the “fuzz” that holds it all together. The connective tissue forming the roof of the carpal tunnel has two common names: flexor retinaculum and transverse carpal ligament. The metacarpal bones of the wrist form sidewalls of the carpal tunnel. The radial and ulnar forearm bones form the floor.

What’s gone wrong with my carpal tunnel?

Two of the problems occurring in this already narrow tunnel involve the tendons and the median nerve. The tendons can be torn and irritated when they are repeatedly rubbed together. This damage can lead to tendonosis, tendonitis or tenosynovitis. If the median nerve is affected by the damaged tendons or underlying disease processes, then Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can result. The median nerve can also be affected by compression due to inflammation or adherence of the nerve to the surrounding tissue. When the nerve is restricted from gliding in its fascial sheaths, your body responds with an inflammatory response. Inflammatory fluids and chemicals are deposited into the carpal tunnel. This tear-and-repair cycle is a normal routine for your body. However, without adequate recovery time or proper joint alignment, the fascia doesn’t have time to re-knit itself before you tear the fascial network again. When there’s too much fluid and too little nerve glide, compression of the median nerve can occur. The resulting pain, numbness, tingling or weakness are symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

How does a normal hand and wrist function?

The hand anatomy has 29 joints. Each joint is designed to move by the muscles that cross it. This allows you to play a racquet sport, hold a child, fasten a tiny safety pin and maneuver a hot drink to your lips. The muscles of the forearm provide you with a gripping ability most other animals can only achieve with their jaws. As a group, the hand and finger extensors and flexors coordinate their activities to produce not only a powerful grip, but also your uniquely human trait of manual dexterity.

What can I do to regain space, fluidity and strength?

When a restorative balance of joint mobility is achieved through exercise, resting and good blood flow, then strength, flexibility and fine manual motor skills improve. Carpal Tunnel Coaching.com is a hand and wrist Resource Center.  We want to be your go-to-place for better hand and wrist health. For a full hand and wrist correction and prevention program try Carpal Tunnel Coaching’s video program.