Learning what is carpal tunnel syndrome may help people assess whether or not they need treatment. Understanding the symptoms, treatment, and causes can lead to early prevention. With carpal tunnel syndrome, it is vital to catch the condition early on to get the right treatment and lasting pain relief. Here are some of the important things you must know about this condition.
Important Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Questions Answered
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a debilitating medical condition that causes pain, tingling, and numbness in the hands and fingers. The condition is caused by the compression of the median nerve as it moves through the wrist at the carpal tunnel.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Inflammation can cause the swelling inside of the wrist, leading to the compression of the median nerve, which causes carpal tunnel syndrome. Inflammation is usually caused by an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, fluid retention from menopause or pregnancy, fractures of the wrist, and thyroid dysfunction.
Activities such as typing and moving the mouse, using power tools, and playing the piano may also cause strain on the wrist. This leads to the swelling of the wrist and compression of the median nerve.
What Is the Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The treatment will depend on the severity of the pain and symptoms. If the condition is caught early, then non-surgical methods will be used first. Non-surgical options include wrist splints, pain medication, and anti-inflammatories, treatment for underlying conditions, and steroid injections.
Surgery may be required to treat severe damage to the median nerve. The surgery will involve cutting the ligament around the carpal tunnel to relieve pressure to the median nerve.
What to Expect from Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
The doctor will cut the ligament around the carpal tunnel to take pressure off the median nerve and provide relief. The ligaments come back together after the surgery but with more space to avoid pressure on the median nerve. The pain and numbness may stop immediately after the surgery or within several months.
What Are My Options for Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
There are two types of carpal tunnel surgery: endoscopic and open.
The surgeon makes one incision in the wrist and may make another one in the arm. These incisions are smaller than the incisions from open surgery. A small camera is then inserted into one of the incisions to guide the surgeon as they cut the ligament. The smaller incisions from endoscopic surgery may enable faster recovery and less pain.
Open Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Open carpal tunnel surgery involves a larger incision of up to 2 inches from the wrist to the palm. Once the incision is made, the surgeon will be able to see and cut the ligament to reduce pressure to the median nerve. The incision is then closed with stitches and patients will typically be allowed to go home on the same day. Consult with an experienced medical professional to learn what treatment options are best.
What Are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a slowly developing condition with symptoms mostly showing up at night or when waking up in the morning.
Tingling or numbness
Patients may experience numbness and some tingling in their hands or fingers. All of the fingers except the little one may sometimes feel an electric shock. This usually happens when patients are holding a steering wheel, newspaper, and phone.
It may become harder to firmly grasp any item because the thumb and first two fingers feel weak. Dropping things by accident more often, having trouble buttoning a shirt, and difficulty in using utensils are all signs of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Numbness in the hands may be a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. The sensation problems may manifest as a feeling of swollen fingers even if they aren’t and difficulty distinguishing between hot and cold.
Experiencing any of these symptoms is a sign to speak to a medical professional as soon as possible.
What Tests Diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and check for symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. There are three different tests that doctors use for an accurate diagnosis.
Tinel’s Sign Test
The doctor taps the inside of the patient’s wrist and checks if the patient feels any of the common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Phalen’s Sign Test
The patient holds out their arms and flexes their wrist, and they let go after 60 seconds. The doctor will then check for any tingling or numbness.
Two-Point Discrimination Test
The patient closes their eyes and the doctor will use small instruments to touch two points. If the patient cannot distinguish between the two touches then they may have carpal tunnel syndrome. Consult a doctor to learn more about how to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome.
How to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Naturally?
If the condition is caught early, then it may be possible to treat it without surgery. Accommodating certain lifestyle changes may ease the symptoms and stop it in its tracks. Here are small changes anyone can do to help ease the symptoms:
- Take breaks from repetitive tasks such as drilling, playing the guitar, and typing.
- Wear wrist splints because they keep the wrists straight and relieve pressure on the median nerve.
- Keeping the hands warm can help with the stiffness and pain. Consider buying hand warmers to keep the hands warm.
What Can I Do to Prevent Getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Certain activities or tasks may cause pressure to the median nerve. Pressure to the median nerve may cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Making some easy lifestyle changes may reduce the risk of developing the condition.
- Patients should relax their grip and straighten their wrists while typing on a keyboard.
- Try doing hand and wrist exercises to help reduce the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Maintain correct posture while sitting at work. Bad posture causes neck compression, which may affect the hands and wrists.
Ekhart Yoga has some useful exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome in this video:
In the end, learning what carpal tunnel syndrome is can help people catch it early. Experiencing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome is a sign to check in with an experienced doctor ASAP. Treatment and recovery will be a lot easier if caught early. The condition starts as an inconvenience but if left untreated, may cause permanent nerve damage. Be vigilant and check for symptoms to stay healthy for the years to come.
What advice do you have for carpal tunnel syndrome? Tell us in the comments section below!