If you spend a lot of time typing at a computer and start to experience wrist pain or discomfort, your first thought might go to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). It’s a common ailment affecting 3 to 6 percent of adults and is more likely to affect people who perform repetitive motion at work, have previously been injured, or suffer from arthritis. If you think CTS might be the cause of your wrist issues, use this guide to learn about your options for treatment and relief.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
CTS happens when the median nerve — which lives inside a passageway in your wrist (the carpal tunnel) and controls sensation to your thumb and first three fingers — becomes swollen or compressed. It is more common with age, overuse of the wrists, arthritis, and more prevalent in women than men. It’s a painful condition that can cause permanent damage if left untreated.
What Are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms?
CTS is indicated by numbness, tingling and burning in the palm of the hand, the thumb and the first three fingers. It can be worse at night, and has been described like the “pins and needles” sensation when your arm falls asleep. Symptoms can also include weakness, difficulty with grasp, or a feeling of swelling in the fingers when none is present. Over time, symptoms can spread all the way up to the shoulder, and grip strength and hot/cold sensation could be permanently lost.
How Is it Diagnosed?
Several tests are effective to diagnose CTS, including physical examinations and nerve tests. During the Tinel test, your doctor will tap on the median nerve to see if symptoms can be triggered. The Phalen test will involve you holding the backs of your hands together to see if symptoms occur. During a nerve conduction test, small electrodes will deliver pulses that are measured for speed. A definitive diagnosis of CTS (as opposed to other, similar conditions) will guide treatment options.
How Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?
Depending on your age, occupation, and other risk factors, your doctor may begin with conservative, non-surgical treatments like splinting, steroid injections, or physical therapy. Your doctor may also recommend rest, ice, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and strengthening exercises. If symptoms don’t improve, a surgical decompression of the carpal tunnel will help relieve the pressure on the nerve. At Alexander Orthopedic Associates, we perform a cutting-edge, minimally-invasive procedure that requires only a half-inch incision and can be performed in an outpatient setting. It requires less recovery time and provides results that are superior to traditional surgeries that leave a large scar.
Don’t let carpal tunnel syndrome go untreated. Contact us today for a consultation.