Symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome include hand numbness or pain, which are caused from nerve compression in the wrist. Sometimes the entire arm(s) can be involved, as the median nerve runs through the arm. The carpal tunnel itself is a structure in the wrist at the base of the palm, which is a kind of narrow canal and there are various bones, tendons, ligaments and nerves running through it. The median nerve is the main nerve in this area, and it provides sensation to each finger except the pinky. This nerve also provides gripping strength in the base of the thumb.
Carpal tunnel syndrome results when this channel in the wrist compresses the median nerve, due to the swelling and inflammation of the surrounding tissues. This inflamed tissue, known as the synovium, crowds the nerve and constricts the space within the carpal tunnel. This pressure on the median nerve causes a constellation of symptoms affecting the hand, wrist and upper extremity. This can arise for people who ride motorcycles as well as play sports like tennis and golf. Any sort of extra use of the hand and wrist can be cause for carpal tunnel syndrome. Though athletes are closely associated with the condition, people who are constantly typing throughout or working with their hands repetitively are more susceptible to carpel tunnel as well. Carpal tunnel syndrome progressively worsens without proper treatment, and can seriously interfere with the full use of the wrist or hand.
Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Several contributors can increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome development:
- Women are three times as likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome compared to men, perhaps due to the smaller size of their carpal tunnel.
- Age – middle-aged women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Occupation – assembly line workers are at times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Some research suggests heavy keyboard use may be to blame, as well, but this has been disputed.
- Trauma – an injury to the wrist area may compress the median nerve.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy or menopause
- Patients with metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, directly affecting the nerves, making them more susceptible to compression.
- Arthritis diagnosis.
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may include:
- Burning sensations noticed in the fingers.
- Tingling or numbness, especially of each finger, except the pinky. This sensation is especially notable upon awakening.
- Feel the need to shake the hands for relief.
- Radiating pain from the wrist up the arm, especially from repetitive use.
- Swelling of the hands as a result of nerve compression.
- Weakness or clumsiness with fine motor skills and tendency to drop objects.
- Muscle atrophy, especially in the thumb.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment
Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Self-care techniques may be helpful for those suffering with carpal tunnel syndrome with milder symptoms. A splint can keep the wrist in place while at rest and wearing it may keep symptoms stable. If a wrist splint proves ineffective or is inefficient in pain relief after 4-6 weeks of use, then it is unlikely to be helpful. In these cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure that has build-up in the median nerve.
Other potentially effective treatment methods include:
- Medication - Pain medication or drugs used to treat swelling, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, may be beneficial in symptom relief. Diuretics, also known as water pills, may also decrease swelling.
- Injections - Lidocaine or corticosteroids may be injected into the wrist to relieve pressure on the nerve and provide immediate relief for patients with mild to moderate symptoms. However, relief is only temporary and you will need repeated injections.
- Physical therapy - Stretching and strengthening exercises may be useful for people to build skills to improve their hand and wrist movement.
- Alternative treatments - Acupuncture or chiropractic care have benefitted certain patients, but these methods have not been proven to treat or cure carpal tunnel syndrome. Yoga may be of some help, as well, in pain reduction and improving grip strength.
Surgical Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Following the attempt at nonsurgical methods that have proven ineffective, surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome may be recommended. Carpal tunnel release surgery is the most commonly performed operation in the U.S., and is often recommended for patients whose symptoms have lasted at least 6 months. It involves severing the tough band of tissue around the wrist in order to relieve pressure on the median nerve. In most cases, it can be accomplished in an out-patient basis. It is also important to note that even advanced cases of carpal tunnel syndrome are still fully treatable. During carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, patients will be put under using general anesthesia. An orthopedic surgeon will then release the ligament in order to provide more room in the carpal tunnel and, in turn, relieve pressure in the wrist. In the majority of cases, patients can expect relief immediately following surgery; however, others may not be pain-free if they have been experiencing long-lasting nerve pressure. Surgical carpal tunnel syndrome treatment may be performed via an endoscopic procedure or an open procedure.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery Risks
In general, surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, called carpal tunnel release, is safe. However, there is some risk of complications, including:
- Injury to the nerves
Carpal tunnel is a common condition that many people suffer from. Isnt it time you finally got treated for your symptoms? If you are interested in learning more about carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as treatment options available in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California, please call West Medical at (855) 690-0565 and one of our representatives will be happy to address any of your questions, comments, or concerns.
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