Carpal Tunnel

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What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as median nerve compression, is one of the most common conditions that affects the hands. The carpal tunnel runs through the wrist and allows the median nerve and surrounding tendons to connect the forearm to the hand.

Carpal tunnel is caused when the median nerve receives pressure or irritation due to decreased space in the wrist. The result is the swelling of the median nerve and surrounding tendons, which can lead to slower nerve impulses, dysfunction of the hand, and even loss of feeling in your fingers entirely.

Who Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Affect?

Carpal tunnel syndrome can affect anybody, but it is three times more likely to occur in women than it is in men. There are several possible causes of carpal tunnel, including those who use their wrists and hands repeatedly for work and play. However, it is rare for this to occur before age 20.

It often occurs in activities or work where repetitive hand motions are demonstrated with high-force, long-term use, extreme wrist motions and vibration. People with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or other disorders that affect the body’s nerves are also put at higher risk of developing carpal tunnel.

Other risk factors include heredity, pregnancy, wrist fracture, hand or wrist deformity, alcoholism, amyloid deposits, and more. Often times there is no single cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. It could be a combination of several risk factors that ultimately lead to the development of the condition.

What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel?

Carpal tunnel symptoms usually start slowly and become more apparent as time goes on. It involves a numbness or tingling in the thumb, pointer, and middle finger, but can also include half of the ring finger. The fingers may also feel like they are swollen, even with no apparent swelling.

The symptoms may be worsen at night, but they will also flair up throughout the day while doing basic activities such as driving, reading, or talking on the phone. Early on, shaking your hands might make the feeling subside, but it may not have any effect as it progresses and worsens.

Neglecting to treat these symptoms for long enough can lead to carpal tunnel complications such as permanent damage to the hand, and loss of sensation in the fingers.

How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?

The level of treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome depends on how severe the symptoms are and how early the condition is diagnosed. There are several nonsurgical methods that may improve the persisting symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome if the condition is diagnosed early. If possible, it is recommended to try to manage carpal tunnel syndrome without surgery to allow you to continue daily activities without interruption.

Safe practices for non-surgical treatment and carpal tunnel prevention include avoiding overextending your wrist, wearing wrist splints to keep your hand in place, and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or Motrin IB to reduce swelling and pain.

Another nonsurgical method to improve carpal tunnel syndrome is the injection of a corticosteroid such as cortisone to relieve pain. Corticosteroids decrease inflammation and swelling which will relieve the pressure on the median nerve. Providers will sometimes use an ultrasound to guide the injections.

While treatment methods are recommended to counteract symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, some full-time jobs require movements that may contribute to the development of this condition. If this is the case for you try utilizing some of these techniques to reduce your risk of long-term complications. Relax your grip as you work, take short and frequent breaks, keep your hands warm, change your computer mouse or keyboard to keep your wrist comfortable, or raise and lower your chair.

Carpal Tunnel Surgical Treatment Options

Depending on the severity of the condition and the severeness of the symptoms, surgery may be necessary if symptoms persist. Surgical treatments are recommended when carpal tunnel syndrome does not respond to non-surgical treatments and often have very positive outcomes. There are two options for carpal tunnel surgical treatments: endoscopic surgery or open surgery.

Endoscopic surgery involves a process where the surgeon uses a small, telescope-like device to see inside the carpal tunnel and cut the ligament pressing on the median nerve through one or two small incisions in the hand or wrist. This process often results in less pain than open surgery in the days or weeks following the surgery.

Open surgery involves the surgeon making an incision on the palm of the hand directly above the carpal tunnel. Then, the ligament is cut to free the median nerve of the compression and resolve symptoms.

Following the completion of either surgery and during the healing process of the affected area, ligament tissues will gradually grow back together away from the medial nerve. The internal healing process will typically take several months, in which time the patient should be sure to avoid forceful hand motions or extreme wrist positions.

Before undergoing any procedure, be sure to discuss the risks and benefits of each technique with your surgeon.

To learn more about Carpal Tunnel treatment options in the Fort Myers, Estero and Naples area, contact Orthopedic Center of Florida.

Meet our Hand, Wrist & Elbow Doctors:

Spencer P. Skinner, MD

Spencer P. Skinner, MD

Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Orthopaedic Surgeon Specializing in Hand, Upper Extremity, and Peripheral Nerve SurgeryOrthopedic Services and Sports Medicine SpecialtiesShoulderDislocations &...

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