Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpel Tunnel Syndrome Overview

The carpal tunnel, a slim passageway on the palm side of your wrist, consists of ligaments and bones; running through it is the median nerve that regulates the sensation and movement in your thumb and first three fingers. When the nerve is pinched or irritated, it may result in carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

Typically, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome begin slowly, often with fluctuating tingling or numbness in your index and middle fingers and thumb. These may occur in one or both hands, ordinarily originating in the dominant hand.

As the condition progresses, you may experience the following in your hand, wrist, and palm.

  • Discomfort.
  • Weakness.
  • Feeling as though your hand is “asleep.”
  • Diminished feeling in fingers.
  • Numbness that increases over time.
  • Loss of coordination and strength.
  • Increasing pain.

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome Causes

Unfortunately, there is seldom one conclusive cause of carpal tunnel syndrome; anything squeezing or irritating the median nerve may set the condition into motion.

In some cases, a combination of medical risk factors may be responsible. These include:

  • Wrist trauma.
  • Arthritis.
  • Gender (Women are more three times more likely to develop the condition).
  • Inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • “Undersized” carpel tunnels.
  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Pregnancy (usually ceases afterward).
  • Menopause.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Thyroid disorders.

Medical factors aren’t the only causes of carpal tunnel syndrome. Any activity that involves repetitive motions of the wrist may also trigger the ailment, particularly those in which your hands are at a lower angle than the wrist.

Although computer use is often pointed to as a cause, study after study has failed to provide decisive scientific evidence demonstrating a direct link; in fact, research shows the syndrome more widespread among assembly line workers, hairdressers, cashiers and others whose work requires sustained/recurring bending of the wrist.

Consulting a Physician

Should you experience ongoing signs and symptoms that interfere with your daily activities and sleep patterns, see your physician right away. The longer carpel tunnel syndrome goes undiagnosed, the more likely the chance of permanent nerve/muscle damage.

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

The earlier the condition is diagnosed, the greater the chance that non-surgical methods may be used successfully to improve it.

Splinting, icing, flexibility exercises, and physical or occupational therapy may offer symptomatic relief, as may the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ((NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.).

Injection of corticosteroids (e.g. cortisone) into the painful area can provide pain relief by decreasing soreness and inflammation.

Alternative (complementary) therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, or supplements are frequently combined with other treatments.  As with all your health practices, make certain you coordinate these with your doctor.

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome Surgery

If your symptoms persist after months of nonsurgical treatment, inhibiting your everyday activities, surgery to alleviate pressure on the median nerve may be the next step. The two surgical techniques commonly used are “endoscopic” and “open.”

Endoscopic Surgery

Though the use of a tiny camera attached to a telescope-like device, endoscopic surgery requires only one or two tiny incisions in your hand to cut the ligament pressing on the nerve, thereby relieving pressure.

Typically, the less invasive endoscopic surgery is preferred over open, as it results in less pain and shorter healing time following the procedure. However, it has also shown greater likelihood than open for the need for additional surgery in the future.

Open Surgery

Open surgery cuts through the ligament to free the median nerve, requiring an incision in the palm. This type of surgery requires a longer recovery period than does endoscopic surgery, and the development of sensitive scar tissue is more likely.

As with any surgery, both procedures involve risks. Don’t neglect to thoroughly discuss the pros and cons of each with your surgeon.

 

Orthopedic Surgeons

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