What Is Carpal Tunnel?
Your carpal tunnel is a passageway on the palm side of your wrist. This tunnel protects a main nerve to your hands, as well the tendons that move your fingers. Carpal tunnel syndrome is marked by pressure put on this area that results in numbness, pain, and hand weakness.
How Does It Happen?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by repetitive motion, including computer use, other conditions such as osteoarthritis, fluid retention, and large protein deposits.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Usually, carpal tunnel syndrome begins with a dull ache in your wrist. More advanced symptoms include these.
Pain that radiates from your wrist and up your arm
A numbness or tingling in your hand
A weakness in your hand and fingers
How Is It Diagnosed?
Your doctor will want to know about the symptoms you're having and exactly when you're having them. Then he or she will examine your hands, wrists, and fingers to test their strength and feeling. You may also have some diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study and an electromyogram. These can also help rule out other conditions that can have similar symptoms.
How Is It Treated?
Effective treatment depends on how severe your condition is. If your case is mild, you can rest your wrist more often and use a cold pack when the pain flares up. In other cases, you can wear a wrist splint at night, which will relieve tingling and numbness. You may also benefit from over-the-counter pain relievers or from pain management such as a cortisone shot. These medications can reduce inflammation and ease pain.
For more severe cases, your doctor may recommend carpal tunnel release surgery. This involves cutting the ligament that's pressing on your nerve. Sometimes, arthroscopy is used, and that results in smaller incisions that those needed in traditional surgery.
Occupational/hand therapy is often recommended for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. This therapy involves strengthening and stretching the wrist joint, pain relief practices, and possible splinting.
What Is the Prognosis?
The majority of people who have surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome report marked improvement afterward. However, some also report continual weakness, soreness, and stiffness in their wrists. Learn more about BayCare's Hand and Upper Extremity Care.