What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Picture this – you wake up in the middle of the night to a painful numbness or tingling in your hand. At first you think your hand is just asleep but this sensation doesn’t go away. If this is something you have experienced, you might be dealing with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that affects the nerve of your wrist. This can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in your hand. This condition affects the thumb, pointer, middle, and part of the ring finger.
The cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is inflammation of the nerve at the wrist. The inflammation causes swelling of the nerve in a confined space which results in increased pressure on the nerve. This pressure causes the nerve dysfunction. Nerve dysfunction leads to the numbness and tingling sensation that people experience. There is no single cause that leads to Carpal Tunnel. However, one of the most common causes is repetitive movement.
- Pain, numbness, tingling in the hand
- Pain waking you up at night
- Hand feels “dead”
- Shaking hand to “wake it up”
Carpal Tunnel symptoms usually start gradually and are most commonly aggravated by repetitive movement. Stages vary from mild to moderate to severe Carpal Tunnel, all of which will result in different treatment options.
Carpal Tunnel Examination
This process usually begins with an evaluation of the hands to determine where the numbness is. Next, the arm would be examined to ensure there are no associated conditions (pinched nerve at elbow and wrist is common). After examining the hand and arm, an evaluation of the nerves in the neck are done to rule out any other potential problems.
The next step of the Examination includes Diagnostic Testing. This can be done one of two ways, Nerve Conduction Study or Ultrasound exam. Nerve Conduction Study tells how well the nerves are functioning in the wrist/arm and also can tell the severity of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
The ultimate goal is to avoid surgery if possible. Depending on the severity of the Carpal Tunnel, there are some Non-Operative Treatment options available. Some of these treatment options for mild to moderate Carpal Tunnel include:
- Steroid Injections
Although Steroid Injections are a possible treatment, studies show that nearly 90% of patients will have their symptoms return after a years’ time. For severe Carpal Tunnel, these non-operative treatments will simply not work. Surgery is the best option for those with severe Carpal Tunnel.