The condition is a result of compression of the median nerve, causing pressure when it passes through the area of the wrist called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve is a vital nerve which runs the length of your arm and feeds the first three fingers, (thumb, index, and pointer) of your hand. The pressure increases, creating issues when it passes through the area of the wrist called the carpal tunnel. Hence name Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
What are the symptoms?
Initial symptoms include burning, weakness, tingling, itching, or numbness in your palm and thumb, index, and pointer fingers. You may have pain running all the way up the arm as well. These symptoms may first be noticed in the morning because the hand is relaxed while sleeping.
Other times in which symptoms may be experienced are while doing activities like driving, talking on the phone, or writing. These symptoms can occur while sleeping resulting in sleep loss.
If left untreated, symptoms progress to less grip strength, causing items to be dropped. Other symptoms, such as muscle cramps and pain could become worse. Permanent muscle damage and loss of function in the hands are at risk.
How is it treated?
There are several methods for treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If diagnosed early, the items listed in the prevention section will also help with early treatment, as well as wearing wrist splints and using cold packs to reduce swelling.
Other non-surgical treatments that could be used to provide relief include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID)s, corticosteroid shots to relieve pressure on the nerve, and physical therapy. These may be recommended; however, any treatment is dependent upon the severity of the condition.
Surgery can be done using either arthroscopic or open surgical methods.
Treatment options and risks must be discussed with your diagnosing physician.
Can it be prevented?
The risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be reduced by doing several things.
- Do what you can to reduce stress and strain on your wrists and hands.
- Try to perform routine activities with a gentler touch. For example, try holding tools firmly enough to avoid losing them but not so hard as to add stress to your hands and wrists.
- Ensure workstations are ergonomically set up to prevent over-extension of the wrists.
- Avoid sports, such as basketball, in which wrists are at risk of repeated over-extension.
- Take five or ten minute breaks periodically from activities with repetitive motions or constant vibration.
- Keep your wrists laying flat when keyboarding or doing other similar activities.
- If you are starting to feel symptoms, wear a wrist brace at night.
If you are suffering from the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and need treatment and relief, contact Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine and Sports Medicine for an appointment. Our team of hand and wrist specialists will work with you on a plan to treat the condition while still allowing you to do the things you love.