Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel
What is Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition that comes from the irritation of the wrist’s median nerve. The median nerve is located in your carpal tunnel. When the nerve is pressed or squeezed, carpal tunnel syndrome can develop.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
For many people, the exact cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is not known. For others, CTS is from other medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, obesity, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, and trauma.
For some people who frequently do repetitive motions with their hands, CTS can develop from repetitive stress injuries.
What Are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms?
People with CTS first feel hand tingling and numbness in the area where the median nerve resides (index, middle finger, and the thumb, as well as the thumb side of the ring fingers). At night, these feelings increase to the point that they can awaken some individuals. Symptoms get worse at night because many people sleep with their wrists bent, which can cause fluid accumulation around the wrists and hands while sleeping in a flat position.
As CTS progresses, burning sensations, hand cramps, and hand weakness can develop. It may become harder to grip things and dropping objects may increase. At times, shooting pains can radiate to the forearm.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose Carpal Tunnel?
Your doctor will record your medical history, ask about your symptoms, and conduct a physical examination.
During your examination, your doctor will determine if you have CTS by:
- Pressing down or tapping along the median nerve at the inside of your wrist to observe if it causes numbness or tingling in your fingers
- Bending the wrist downward to see if it produces symptoms
- Testing your finger and hand sensitivity by lightly touching them when your eyes are closed
- Checking for weakness in the thumb muscles
- Looking for a deterioration in the muscles at the base of your thumb
- Examining your wrist for signs of discoloration, swelling, tenderness, and warmth
- Conducting laboratory tests and X-rays which can determine if fractures, arthritis, or other conditions are causing CTS.
- Performing tests that measure the electrical activity of the nerves and muscles
- Using ultrasound imaging to determine the size of the median nerve
What Are the Complications of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Chronic CTS sufferers may lose the ability to tell the difference between hot and cold by hand touch. Also, people with chronic CTS can experience atrophy (deterioration) of the hand muscles, mostly by the base of the thumb where it meets the palm.
What Are the Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- A major risk factor for CTS is if you often perform repetitive hand or arm motions.
- Having a small carpal tunnel can lead to CTS.
- People with metabolic disorders that affect the nerves in the body are more susceptible to CTS because of an increased risk of compression.
What Are the Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Non-surgical treatment options for CTS include:
- Wearing a splint or brace
- Avoiding activities that can make symptoms flare up
- Acupuncture and chiropractic care
Can Carpal Tunnel Be Cured Without Surgery?
If non-surgical treatments fail, then CTS surgery may be necessary. A procedure, called carpal tunnel release, involves severing the band of tissue around the wrist to reduce pressure on the median nerve.
How Long Does It Take to Recover from Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
Full recovery from CTS surgery can take from one to three months. In some cases, it can be longer if there is excessive swelling. Physical therapy can help shorten recovery time.
When Should You See a Doctor for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
You should see your doctor if you are frequently experiencing numbness, tingling, burning, or pain in your fingers, hands, or wrists. If you are often dropping objects or having problems distinguishing hot or cold with your hands, see your doctor for an evaluation.
If you believe you have symptoms of carpal tunnel, make an appointment today with one of our NY Orthopedics locations in New York City. Our “Centers of Excellence” offer top-level orthopedic treatment for any concerns about your hand & wrists and other joints, all in one location.