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September 25, 2017 | Orthopedics
Marked by numbness, tingling and other symptoms in the hand and arm, carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by a compressed nerve in the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway located on the palm side of your wrist, and the syndrome can be related to the anatomy of the wrist, repetitive hand motions or other health problems. With the right treatment, carpal tunnel tingling and numbness symptoms can be restored along with wrist and hand function.
Causes and Risk Factors
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the forearm through a passageway in the wrist (this is the carpal tunnel) to the hand. The median nerve is responsible for sensation on the palm side of the fingers, with the exception of the little finger, and it also provides nerve signals to move the muscles around the base of the thumb.
Any squeezing or irritation of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel space can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Wrist fractures and rheumatoid arthritis are examples of conditions that can narrow the carpal tunnel or irritate the nerve.
There is often no singular cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, and instead a combination of risk factors that contributes to its development. These risk factors may include:
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome generally arrive gradually, and they may come and go at the start. Symptoms include:
If these symptoms persist and interfere with normal activities and sleep patterns, speak to your doctor. Without treatment, permanent nerve and muscle damage can take place.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be diagnosed by your doctor using a series of questions, and potentially one or more tests. If a positive diagnosis is made, treatment should begin as soon as possible. Basic directions will likely include taking breaks to rest the hands, avoiding activities that worsen symptoms and applying cold packs to reduce swelling.
Other, nonsurgical treatment options may include:
In some cases, surgery might be required to treat carpal tunnel syndrome if it does not respond to other treatments. Surgery involves cutting the ligament pressing on the median nerve, which will relieve the pressure. There are two surgical techniques that may be used:
Surgery risks can include incomplete release of the ligament, wound infections, scar formation and nerve or vascular injuries. The healing process usually takes several months, though the skin will heal in a few weeks.
Some people have found success with alternative treatments like yoga, hand therapy or ultrasound therapy. Always check with your doctor before beginning one of these forms of treatment.
There is no foolproof way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, but a few strategies can reduce stress on the wrists and hands:
If you’re dealing with intrusive symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor can offer treatment recommendations.
Our orthopedics practice has provided care for over 30 years. Our staff is trained handle a variety of issues, including sports medicine. We care for you and your family with the same state-of-the art techniques we use with BYU and Olympic athletes.
“Carpal tunnel syndrome.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/home/ovc-20313865
“Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Topic Overview.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/carpal-tunnel/tc/carpal-tunnel-syndrome-topic-overview#2
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.