Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and wrist. This is caused when the area around the main nerve, called that carpal tunnel, becomes compressed.
Causes and risk factors
- Repetitive hand use
- Doing activities with extreme flexion or extension of the hand and wrist
- Pregnancy or other conditions that cause your body to hold onto fluid
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Wrist injuries
- Tingling and numbness in fingers
- Pain or tingling that travels up the arm
- Lack of strength in grip and finger coordination
- Dropping things
- Night time symptoms are very common and may awaken you from sleep
Diagnosis and treatment
Most people that have carpal tunnel will notice that their symptoms gradually worsen over time. It is important to be evaluated in the early stages to slow or stop the progression of carpal tunnel syndrome. An orthopedic surgeon will examine your hand and test for nerve damage. An EMG or Nerve Conduction Study will help confirm if there is too much pressure on the nerve. Sometimes an ultrasound or other imaging test will also be ordered.
Nonsurgical treatments include rest, ice, wrist splints, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), or steroid injections. If conservative treatment options do not relieve your pain, your orthopedic surgeon may recommend surgery. A carpal tunnel release increases the size of the carpal tunnel and decreases pressure on the nerve. This procedure can either be performs using endoscopic surgery or with traditional open surgery. There are risks and benefits to both and your doctor will discuss both with you. Some patients who choose endoscopic carpal tunnel release may be eligible to utilize wide-awake local anesthesia rather than general anesthesia.
After surgery, you should expect some pain, swelling, and stiffness. You will wear a splint or wrist brace for several weeks. Your doctor will talk to you about when it is safe to return to work and daily activities. Grip and hand strength usually come back within 2-3 months after surgery, but it can take up to a year to fully recover.