Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as median nerve compression, can cause numbness, pain, tingling, or weakness in your hand. The median nerve runs the length of your arm through a passage in your wrist called the carpal tunnel ends in your hand. The median nerve controls the movement and feeling in your thumb and all of your fingers except your pinky.
With carpal tunnel syndrome, there is pressure on your median nerve, and you can develop debilitating symptoms that significantly affect your ability to do simple everyday tasks.
While you think it may be okay and that you can live with it, leaving it untreated in the long run is doing more harm than good. We will discuss some of the causes, symptoms, treatments, and what happens if carpal tunnel syndrome is left untreated.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel can be due to repetitive movements like typing or using equipment that vibrates and is generally the result of a work-related injury. Assembly line workers, cashiers, hair stylists, receptionists, musicians, or people at the highest risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome are the ones who have a job where they have to make the same repetitive motions with their arm, hand, or wrist.
Carpal tunnel can also result from swelling of soft tissues. If the synovium and one of the tendons that pass through the canal swell, it puts pressure on the median nerve.
When the median nerve becomes irritated or inflamed, the carpal tunnel becomes obstructed, leading to carpal tunnel symptoms.
What Are The Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may include:
- Tingling, burning, itching, or numbness in your palm and thumb, index and middle fingers
- You may have trouble holding things and have weakness in your hands
- A slight shock-like feeling that moves through your fingers
- You may feel tingling in your arm
- You may experience pain in your hand, wrist, or arm area
In the beginning, you may feel your fingers fall asleep, go numb at night or wake up in the morning with numbness or tingling in your hands that could run from your fingertips up to your shoulder. When your wrist is bent, like when you’re reading a book, working at a desk, or driving, you may notice that your symptoms flare-up.
In the earlier stages of carpal tunnel syndrome, you may find the numbness will go away when you shake your hands or stretch. However, as carpal tunnel syndrome worsens, you may have less strength to grip as the muscles In your hand shrink, and you may also experience more pain and muscle cramping in your hands.
When your median nerve cannot work like it is supposed to due to the irritation and pressure around it, it can lead to:
- slower nerve impulses
- loss of feeling in your fingers
- loss of strength and coordination, especially the use and ability of your thumb to pinch or hold
Diagnosis And Testing For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Your doctor may order some of the following tests:
- Imaging tests. X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRI exams are often utilized to look at your bones and tissues
- An electromyogram test. Your doctor will put a thin electrode on to the muscle to measure its electrical activity
- A nerve conduction study. Your doctor will tape electrodes to your skin to measure the signals in the nerves of your hand and arm
What Are The Treatments For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Treatment is based upon the individual, their symptoms, and how far your condition has progressed. Some of the treatments may include:
- Lifestyle changes may be necessary if the cause of your symptoms is repetitive motion, like taking more breaks or lessening the amount of activity that is causing your pain.
- Exercises and stretching help strengthen your hand. You can also do nerve gliding exercises to help the nerve move better within your carpal tunnel.
- Immobilization may be necessary, and your doctor may have you wear a splint to keep your wrist from moving and lessen the pressure on your nerves. Wearing a splint at night may also help reduce numbness or tingling so that you can sleep better and rest your median nerve.
- Medication may be necessary, and your doctor may give you anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid shots to help reduce the swelling.
- Surgery is sometimes necessary if none of the above treatments work. The operation is called carpal tunnel release, which increases the tunnel’s size and eases the pressure on your nerves.
What Happens If Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Goes Untreated?
As carpal tunnel syndrome progresses, the symptoms become more constant, painful, and impair your hand function, affecting your daily life. Simple everyday tasks like washing dishes, buttoning a shirt, or even driving can be more complicated for you to perform and may also result in a loss of work.
The more prolonged carpal tunnel syndrome goes untreated, the more likely the symptoms will worsen and cause that irritation in the nerves. Once nerve damage occurs, it can be impossible to reverse, making it crucial to seek Orthopedic treatment as soon as possible. While severe cases of carpal tunnel may require an orthopedic surgeon, surgery cannot change any of the nerve damage that has already occurred.
Consult your orthopedic doctor today to ensure you don’t wait too long to get your carpal tunnel treatment.
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Our team at Thunder Basin Orthopaedics of experienced surgeons is here to help you. We specialize in sports injuries, joint replacement, traumatic injuries, carpal tunnel surgeries, etc., and offer personalized treatment plans to improve your quality of life. We have two offices, Gillette and Douglas Wyoming, and we are here to serve you. Contact us today to book an appointment and begin your path to healing.