Carpal tunnel syndrome, also known as median nerve compression, is a condition that narrows the carpal tunnel and increases pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. This creates a tingling sensation, weakness, numbness, or pain in the hand and fingers. Some patients even describe feeling an “electrical shock” sensation in their first four fingers.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it may be time to pay a visit to your doctor. Ignoring or delaying treatment can lead to chronic pain, decreased grip strength, or permanent nerve damage. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a progressive condition that usually does not go away on its own, so it is important to see your primary physician or an orthopaedic specialist before it is too late.
“In common culture, repetitive motions are commonly associated with carpal tunnel, but actually several large studies have shown no connection between the two things. A lot of times people associate keyboards but there’s actually been no proven association. Sports with rackets, bats, or clubs have been shown to increase risk of carpal tunnel. Baseball, golf and tennis have been associated with increased incidents of carpal tunnel.”
Who is most likely to develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is very common and affects people with existing health problems, differing anatomy of their wrist, and/or injuries to their hand or arm.
Other risk factors include:
- Wrist deformity
- Arthritic disease such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis
- A tumor in the carpal tunnel
How is it diagnosed?
Testing for carpal tunnel syndrome can be done a variety of ways. Your physician will begin with a physical exam by checking for any numbness or tingling in the hand. They will also test wrist mobility and range of motion, and grip strength.
The doctor may also order x-rays, an ultrasound, or perform a nerve conduction test, which will determine how well the nerve controls muscle movement. These additional tests help rule out any other possibilities, such as arthritis or neuropathy.
How is it treated?
Your physician will begin by offering non-surgical treatment options, such as wearing a splint or brace at night as carpal tunnel symptoms are usually present when you sleep. They may also suggest taking cortisone injections, and ibuprofen. Making changes to your workplace can also help, like using a cushioned computer mouse, or adjusting the height of your keyboard to ensure your wrist does not move up and down.
If surgery is necessary to open the carpal tunnel, it is best to have the procedure done before your hand goes numb. By then, the nerve compression is too severe and irreparable damage may occur. Carpal tunnel surgery is performed with a 90% success rate, and takes on average 10 minutes to complete.
While there are no proven methods to prevent carpal tunnel, some steps you can take to lower your chances of it are:
- Watch your form and improve your wrist posture
- Take breaks if you feel a tingling sensation
- Keep your grip relaxed
- Use a comfortable keyboard and computer mouse
- Avoid flexing and rolling your wrists
- Sleep with hands and wrists in a straight position
If you have questions or think you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, don’t wait to call a specialist. Trinity Medical Orthopaedics is proud to offer orthopedic care specializing in hand and wrist conditions, so we can effectively diagnose and treat your carpal tunnel symptoms. Call (716) 204-1101 to schedule a consult with orthopaedic hand specialist, Dr. Joe Messana today!