Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a prevalent condition that impacts the hands and wrists. It occurs due to compression or pressure on the median nerve, which passes through a narrow pathway called the carpal tunnel in the wrist. The median nerve controls sensation and movement in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and part of the ring finger. When this nerve experiences compression, it can lead to various symptoms like pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand and wrist. Often, CTS results from repetitive hand and wrist movements such as typing, using a computer mouse, or working on an assembly line. Other contributing factors include wrist injuries, arthritis, pregnancy, and specific medical conditions. Treatment options for CTS range from conservative measures like rest and splinting to more aggressive approaches like surgery, based on the condition’s severity.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms can vary based on the condition’s severity. Some common symptoms include:
- Pain or discomfort in the hand or wrist: This could manifest as a dull ache or a sharp, shooting pain that travels up the arm.
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers or hand: This sensation might feel like pins and needles or a loss of feeling in the affected area.
- Weakness in the hand or wrist: This could make it challenging to grip objects or perform tasks requiring fine motor skills.
- Difficulty gripping objects: This issue may result from a loss of strength or coordination in the affected hand or wrist.
- Pain that travels up the arm: This may occur due to pressure on the median nerve that passes through the wrist and into the hand.
These symptoms may worsen at night and may also be exacerbated by specific activities such as typing or using a computer mouse.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs due to pressure on the median nerve, which can stem from various factors. Some common causes include:
- Repetitive hand and wrist movements, like typing or using a computer mouse
- Prolonged exposure to vibrations, such as using power tools
- Arthritis or other conditions causing inflammation in the wrist
- Hormonal changes, such as those during pregnancy or menopause
- Hereditary factors
If you aren’t sure any of these apply to you or your situation here’s an example of what someone might experience as they notice pain or numbness in their wrists and hands but aren’t sure what’s causing the issue:
Jane, a graphic designer, has been working long hours to meet a project deadline. Over the past few days, she’s been feeling occasional tingling sensations and numbness in her fingers, especially in her thumb, index, and middle fingers. Initially, she dismisses these sensations as a temporary annoyance. However, as the week progresses, Jane notices that the tingling has turned into a persistent, dull ache in her wrist that sometimes radiates up her forearm.
In the evenings, Jane finds it increasingly difficult to hold her smartphone or pick up her water bottle, as her grip strength seems to have weakened. The pain in her wrist becomes more pronounced at night, often disrupting her sleep. Concerned about these symptoms, Jane decides to consult with a medical professional to discuss the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome and explore appropriate treatment options.
Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you’re experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, it’s essential to seek professional care and treatment. At Hand and Wrist Specialists at Thunder Basin Orthopedics, we provide various treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome, including:
- Rest and immobilization: Giving the affected hand and wrist a rest, and wearing a splint or brace to immobilize the wrist, can help alleviate symptoms and promote healing.
- Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help alleviate pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help enhance wrist strength and flexibility and may also include exercises to alleviate pressure on the median nerve.
- Corticosteroid injections: Corticosteroid injections can help reduce pain and inflammation in the wrist.
- Surgery: In severe carpal tunnel syndrome cases, surgery might be necessary to relieve pressure on the median nerve. This procedure may involve cutting the ligament pressing on the nerve or removing tissue causing pressure.
If you’re experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, it’s crucial to seek professional care and treatment. The Hand and Wrist Specialists at Thunder Basin Orthopedics can help diagnose your condition and create a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs.