When thinking about carpal tunnel syndrome, the first symptoms that come to mind are the physical signs: numbness, tingling, pain, weakness and loss of sensation. However, what we don’t always realize is that carpal tunnel syndrome may also lead to psychological manifestations.  

These subtle symptoms may be sleep disturbances, feelings of guilt, low self-esteem and psychological stress worsened by income loss due to declining performance at work or job loss. These unnoticed effects of carpal tunnel syndrome are more common in individuals who did not seek prompt medical attention at the early phase of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Early diagnosis and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome helps to reduce the risk of developing these unusual consequences.

It is critical for you to be aware of these unexpected effects of carpal tunnel syndrome so you can be motivated to seek a health professional’s help.

Sleep disturbances

Carpal tunnel symptoms such as numbness and pain in the wrist become pronounced in the night in some individuals. The onset of these symptoms causes night waking and sleep disturbances in those affected.  

These affected patients sometimes stay awake all night because of the frequent urge to shake the wrist for temporal relief of the wrist pain.

To cope with the distressing night pain, some individuals may adopt sleeping positions which cause wrist deviation and worsens the symptoms. 80% of patients with Carpal tunnel syndrome experience numbness and pain at night coupled with altered sleep patterns. The frequency of sleep disruptions affects the individual’s ability to function optimally during the day.

A comparative study among patients with carpal tunnel syndrome and those without it revealed that insomnia (inability to stay asleep) and other abnormal sleep patterns were more common in those with carpal tunnel syndrome than in those without it.

The quality of sleep can be improved when the carpal tunnel symptoms are addressed early.

Mental health challenges

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes mental health problems like anxiety and depression among affected individuals. The anxiety feeling is due to the pain which the individual feels while the depression could be triggered by sleep disruption and other burdens (job loss, cost of therapy etc ) faced by these patients.

Some patients with carpal tunnel syndrome might lose their ability to cater for their loved ones especially young children and to perform house chores or sports. This can instill a sense of guilt, psychological stress, loss of enjoyment and eventually leads to depression.

The severity of carpal tunnel symptoms is directly correlated with the manifestation of anxiety or depression.

A study done in the United Kingdom to  assess the prevalence of depression and anxiety in Carpal tunnel syndrome patients revealed that these mental health challenges were higher in patients with moderate and severe carpal tunnel syndrome.

Socioeconomic effects

Carpal tunnel syndrome affects workplace productivity, income and other responsibilities at home.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is common with individuals who engage in repetitive hand movements and this affects these individuals’ ability to carry out functional tasks at work.

This leads to a gradual decline in the affected person’s productivity at work which eventually might lead to loss of earning for self-employed people or job loss for employees.

Workers affected by carpal tunnel syndrome who did not seek prompt treatment usually experience loss in their long term earnings.

A study  conducted in the United States of America done to estimate the economic burden on carpal tunnel syndrome on a group of construction workers indicated that the average accumulated loss of earnings in a 6 year period was $45,000- $89,000 for each person.

This loss of earnings may not be covered by the worker’s insurance plan thereby reducing the funds available for the individual to cater for the family needs and other bills.

Therefore, it is imperative to seek a preventive approach in managing carpal tunnel symptoms to significantly decrease the psychological stress experienced by affected patients.

How should you prevent these unwanted consequences

You should seek a professional assessment at the onset of numbness or tingling sensations in your hand. This early attention to carpal tunnel symptoms helps to reduce the chances of a mild carpal tunnel symptom progressing to a severe one.

A hand surgeon is the ideal professional trained to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome through series of clinical examinations and using diagnostic tests such as electromyography.

 Dr Brutus is an experienced hand surgeon who uses evidence based techniques to clinically assess your hand, diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome early and proffer therapeutic relief of your carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.

Conclusion

Carpal tunnel syndrome patients may sometimes experience unusual symptoms such as sleep disturbances, psychological challenges including depression and loss of earnings due to reduced productivity at work.

To reduce the progression of carpal tunnel syndrome and your risk of developing these unwanted effects, patients with carpal tunnel syndrome should consult with a professional hand surgeon.