Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome results from placing stressful weight on the wrist’s median nerve. The forearm’s tendons, along with the median nerve, pass through to the hand through a very small space called the carpal tunnel. Since the median nerve controls finger movement, undue weighted pressure on this nerve can cause weakness and loss of sensation in the hand.
About 5% of people in the United States have carpal tunnel syndrome, beginning in adulthood. It is estimated to affect one out of ten people during their lifetime and is the most common nerve compression syndrome. Women are more commonly affected than men, by a ratio of 3:1 in ages 45-60. Increasing age is a risk factor, with only 10% of reported cases younger than 30.
In more than half the reported cases, it affects both sides of the body. Studies have shown that up to 33% of people with carpal tunnel syndrome may improve without specific treatment over approximately a year.
The fingers associated with the median nerve’s function include the middle finger, index finger, thumb side of the ring finger, and thumb. If these fingers are problematic but your little finger is fine (controlled by another nerve), you probably have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Conditions and Activities
There are several conditions and activities that can result in carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Using the hand or wrist in a repeated fashion – typically with the hand lower than wrist. This includes computer work, work with vibrating tools, and activities that requires a strong grip.
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and some types of arthritis can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Pregnancy has also been a reported condition with higher risk rates.
- Genetic predisposition.
- Medical disorders that lead to fluid retention.
- Medical conditions associated with inflammation such as inflammatory arthritis.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include:
- Loss of strength.
- Sensation of pins and needles in the hand.
- Forearm tenderness.
- Pain up the arm.
- Pain during the night, starting gradually.
- Weak grip strength.
After a long time, muscles at the base of the thumb may deteriorate.
Reducing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pain
Making every attempt to care for the pain right away, using at home remedies, can help prevent long-term damage. If you have attempted home remedies such as eliminating the activity, icing the area, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications without relief, consult one of the physicians at Florida Orthopaedic Institute. They can make a thorough diagnosis based on signs, symptoms, and specific physical tests as well as electrodiagnostic tests.
Being physically active can decrease the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms can improve by wearing a wrist splint or with corticosteroid injections. Physical therapy is also a nonsurgical option. If all nonsurgical therapies have been tried without success, your Florida Orthopaedic Institute surgeon may recommend carpal tunnel release surgery.
Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery
During open carpal tunnel release surgery, the transverse carpal ligament is cut, which releases pressure on the median nerve and relieves the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. An incision is made at the base of the palm of the hand. After the ligament is cut, the skin is closed with stitches. Open carpal tunnel release surgeries are usually performed on an out-patient basis and are highly successful.
Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Endoscopic surgery uses an endoscope, which is a thin tube with a camera attached. The endoscope lets the surgeon see structures in the wrist without opening the entire area with a large incision. Endoscopic surgery uses very small surgical tools.
The endoscope is inserted through a small incision in the wrist (single-portal procedure) or at the wrist and palm (two-portal procedure). One small tube contains both the camera and a cutting tool in the single-portal procedure.
The transverse carpal ligament is cut during endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery, releasing pressure on the median nerve. This relieves carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
Because the procedure does not cut the palm open and disturb a large area of the hand, there is a shorter recovery period after an endoscopic surgery than with open surgery.
Find out if you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
At Florida Orthopaedic Institute, our specialized hand & wrist surgeons are very experienced in caring for carpal tunnel syndrome. Your exam will consist of gathering a history of any health-related conditions, including pregnancy, and talk with you about any recent physical activity that may have affected your wrist. Your doctor will evaluate your strength as well as assess your affected wrists along with your arms shoulder and neck. It is not unusual for your doctor to order some blood or nerve tests to rule out other conditions.
If you are experiencing pain and symptoms related to carpal tunnel syndrome, call for an appointment.