Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Approximately 3-6 percent of the overall population has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), a painful condition affecting the nerves in the hand. For many, living with this condition creates challenges in daily activities, resulting in unwanted side effects such as pain while using the hands, numbness or tingling, and reduced grip strength.
While only a doctor can diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, double-checking your symptoms before making an appointment can help communicate the full extent of your experiences and difficulties. To find out more about the cause, symptoms, and treatments of CTS, continue reading below.
What is Carpal Tunnel?
To understand where CTS originates, we must first understand the structure of the wrist.
In this diagram, we can see that the carpal tunnel is located across the thumb and pinky finger, covering several important nerves that run from your forearm to your hand. The main nerve in this area, called the median nerve, controls the movement and sensation in your thumb through your ring finger.
When this passageway becomes compressed, it exerts pressure on your median nerve. This pressure is the culprit of the symptoms and side effects that accompany CTS.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Now that we understand what CTS is, it's time to explore what causes the condition.
While repetitive motions such as typing are commonly blamed for CTS, many other biological factors contribute to the disorder, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Repetitive motion
- Incorrect wrist positioning
Other factors, such as being female, also correlate with a higher risk factor for developing CTS. Similarly, you may be at higher risk for developing CTS if you have a condition that causes you to retain water— a side effect that can cause further restriction at this delicate point in the wrist.
The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Test
The symptoms of CTS start as mild and easy to shake off, making many individuals in the early phases of the disorder skeptical they are truly suffering. For this, there are several tests involving the wrists your doctor may perform during a physical examination to test for CTS.
The Phalen Test
Individuals rest their arms on a table then allow their wrists to hand off the surface freely. Patients with CTS report tingling within 60 seconds of beginning the exercise.
Your doctor will tap over your median. If you feel a tingling sensation, you may have CTS.
A nerve conduction study, this test measures the function and strength of your median nerve.
This type of imaging is used to detect or rule out other factors missed by a physical exam, such as internal trauma or arthritis.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
Depending on the severity of your CTS, symptoms may carry from mild to severe. Generally, however, patients report weakness, tingling, pain, numbness, burning, or itching in the affected hand between the thumb and fourth finger. Some have also reported occasional sensations of electric shock as a short-term symptom of carpal tunnel.
CTS can wreak havoc on the hand and wrist when left to persist, resulting in permanent damage to the nerve and muscle tissue in that region.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Splints and Other Treatment
Parallel to the disorder's potential severity, carpal tunnel syndrome treatment ranges from wrist splints and vitamins through surgical procedures such as open carpal tunnel release.
Especially in the early stages, treatment for CTS includes lifestyle changes such as taking breaks, stretching, strengthening, and limiting activities that cause symptoms. Immobilization by bracing or splinting can be helpful, especially at night or during problematic activities. Anti-inflammatory medications and Vitamin B6 may provide temporary relief. Many patients receive corticosteroid or cortisone injections. These can ease flare-ups, but their effects may not be lasting. Doctors and occupational therapists sometimes teach nerve-gliding exercises as well.
Endoscopic carpal tunnel release and open carpal tunnel release are the two most effective options for those who need surgical intervention. Both involve cutting the transverse carpal ligament that forms the top of the carpal tunnel to increase tunnel size and decrease nerve pressure. In open carpal tunnel release, the ligament is divided by a small incision in the palm. In endoscopic carpal tunnel release, your doctor creates one or two smaller incisions, known as portals, and an endoscope is used to see while cutting the ligament. Most surgeries are outpatient, requiring either general or local anesthesia.
Seeking Professional Help
Living with pain can be debilitating, especially when it affects a region such as the hands and wrists. Educating yourself and having an experienced care team to help you manage your symptoms often makes the difference between controlling your pain or allowing your pain to control you.
When looking for pain management options, Arizona Pain and Spine prides ourselves in connecting patients with the right care providers to overcome their pain. To start your journey, contact us at (480) 986-7246 for more information and get on the path to discussing your next treatment options.
To get better, you may need to rest your hand and avoid working with things that aggravates the symptoms. Ice packs, wrist splints and support, prescribed medication and injections may help. If not, medical surgery may be a viable option. Healthcare providers can develop a bespoke care plan that is right for your needs.
AZ Pain and Spine Institute provides innovative and cutting-edge approach in treating carpal tunnel syndrome. We treat according to our patient’s individual needs, the severity of their condition, and other factors.
Why You Should Reach Out to AZ Pain and Spine
As a prime pain institute in the area, AZ Pain and Spine treats various pain conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome. We have a team of experienced, highly qualified experts in the field. We study and understand the individual needs of our patients and work toward their well-being the best we could.
Make an appointment with us today to get started with your treatment.