When treating carpal tunnel syndrome, doctors will consider several factors, such as the severity of the condition, a patient’s previous history of treatments, the overall health and lifestyle of the patient, and even the underlying causes of the condition. Once all of these components have been considered, a physician will be able to better treat the carpal tunnel problems. Although most treatments will combat only the symptoms, many patients do find relief.
What is the Carpal Tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is the wrist bone, which is surrounded by a band of fibrous tissue that provides support. When this area becomes inflamed, pressure gets placed on the median nerve, which runs through the wrist and receives sensations from the thumb, index, and middle fingers.
Any circumstances that place pressure on the median nerve can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Some medical conditions, activities, and diseases can be the underlying cause of carpal tunnel pain:
- Medical conditions can place strain on the median nerve, including obesity, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, arthritis, diabetes, and trauma. Often swelling and inflammation are to blame.
- Repetitive movements, like typing, can cause tendon inflammation. Today’s jobs and lifestyle habits make carpal tunnel syndrome very common.
- Certain rare diseases will create deposits of abnormal substances that can irritate the median nerve. Examples include amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, multiple myeloma, and leukemia.
What are the Symptoms?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by a list of symptoms, ranging in severity. A doctor will conduct several tests to diagnose a patient with carpal tunnel syndrome, as many often mistake basic wrist pain for the more serious condition.
Individuals experiencing numbness or tingling of the hand, a burning sensation in the hand and arm, cramping and weakness of the hand, shooting pain from the wrist and up the arm, stiffness and cramping of the hand in the morning, or waking at night in pain should consult a physician.
What are the Treatment Options?
As stated before, the chosen course of treatment will depend on several factors. The treatment options, for mild to chronic carpal tunnel syndrome, are diverse.
- Splint or brace. Doctors may recommend wearing a brace during the night for extra support and also during the day if a patient’s activities require repetitive hand movement. This is the first step of treatment, and in most cases, it successfully reduces or eliminates pain.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). With a reduction in the wrist’s inflammation, many patients see pain reduced. Most physicians will recommend this course be used along with a brace or support.
- Cortisone injections. Used for more chronic or extreme cases, a cortisone shot may be administered to the wrist. If successful, the cortisone reduces the swelling of the area and may provide up to six months of continuous relief. A cortisone shot can be repeated every six weeks if needed.
- Surgery. In very extreme cases, a physician may recommend surgery to relieve carpal tunnel syndrome. This usually involves cutting the ligament at the top of the carpal tunnel to relieve the pressure on the nerve, and can be done as an endoscopic or open procedure.
For patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, there is relief. Often, basic stretching exercises, physical therapy, or a change in habits (taking regular breaks from typing, for example) can have a profound effect on the amount and duration of pain. Speak to a doctor with any concerns.
- Mayo Clinic. “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome”
- MedicineNet.com “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome”