hand

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a prevalent condition that affects the hands and wrists, causing pain, numbness, and tingling sensations in the fingers and palm. This condition arises when the median nerve, a crucial nerve in the hand, becomes compressed within the carpal tunnel—a narrow passageway of bones and ligaments situated at the base of the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome can significantly impact daily activities, making it essential to effectively address and manage its symptoms.

At North Florida Hand and Wrist, our team of highly-trained hand and wrist surgeons, led by Dr. Richard D. Curtis and Dr. Jose Baez, is dedicated to providing top-notch care to patients affected by carpal tunnel syndrome. With a state-of-the-art surgical facility and a team of committed practitioners, we strive to alleviate any hand or wrist discomfort stemming from carpal tunnel syndrome, ultimately restoring hand function and improving patients’ overall well-being.

In this guide, we will investigate the factors that contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, discuss how to identify its signs and symptoms, examine the various methods of diagnosis, and delve into the wide range of non-surgical and surgical treatments available at North Florida Hand and Wrist. By understanding the root causes and available options for addressing carpal tunnel syndrome, patients can make well-informed decisions regarding their hand and wrist health, ensuring a comfortable and functional life.

Causes and Risk Factors of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs through the carpal tunnel, is compressed. Several factors can contribute to this compression and increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome:

  1. Anatomical Factors: Some individuals may have a naturally smaller carpal tunnel, predisposing them to nerve compression. Additionally, wrist fractures or dislocations can alter the space within the carpal tunnel, increasing pressure on the median nerve.
  2. Repetitive Motions: Occupations or activities involving repetitive hand or wrist motions, such as typing, sewing, or assembly line work, can lead to strain and inflammation in the carpal tunnel, resulting in nerve compression.
  3. Medical Conditions: Certain health issues, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disorders, have been linked to an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
  4. Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and fluid retention during pregnancy can cause swelling within the carpal tunnel, placing pressure on the median nerve.

Identifying Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Typically, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms develop gradually and can affect one or both hands. Common signs of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  1. Numbness and Tingling: Sensations of numbness and tingling are felt in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. These sensations may worsen during the night or while holding objects, such as a phone or book.
  2. Weakness: Carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to muscle weakness, resulting in difficulty grasping objects, frequent dropping of items, or a weakened grip.
  3. Radiating Pain: Pain may radiate from the wrist up the arm or radiate down into the palm or fingers.
  4. Swollen Sensation: Although there may be no visible swelling, the hand might feel swollen and tight, particularly in the mornings.

Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional is critical to obtain an accurate diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome. The diagnostic process may include:

  1. Physical Examination: During the examination, your healthcare provider will assess your hand strength, sensation, and overall function.
  2. Tinel’s Test: This test involves tapping on the median nerve at the wrist to determine if it elicits tingling or pain in the fingers.
  3. Phalen’s Test: By having the patient hold the backs of their hands together with their wrists flexed for 60 seconds, the healthcare provider can assess if this position provokes symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
  4. Nerve Conduction Studies: These tests measure the speed of electrical impulses flowing through the median nerve to detect nerve compression or damage.
  5. Electromyography (EMG): An EMG measures the electrical activity in the muscles, helping to rule out other possible causes of hand symptoms, such as a pinched nerve in the neck.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Initial treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome generally includes non-surgical interventions:

  1. Wrist Splints: Wearing a wrist splint during the night or while performing activities that trigger symptoms can help alleviate pressure on the median nerve.
  2. Lifestyle Modifications: Taking breaks during activities that involve repetitive motions, practicing proper hand and wrist positioning, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help manage symptoms and prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from worsening.
  3. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
  4. Corticosteroid Injections: Injections of corticosteroids into the carpal tunnel can help reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms, especially in severe cases.

Surgical Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If non-surgical treatments do not provide adequate relief or if the symptoms are severe, surgical intervention may be necessary. The most common surgical procedure is carpal tunnel release, which aims to relieve pressure on the median nerve by cutting the transverse carpal ligament. This procedure can be performed using an open or endoscopic technique.

Conclusion

Carpal tunnel syndrome can significantly impact daily life, but with appropriate diagnosis and treatment by the expert wrist and hand surgeons at North Florida Hand and Wrist, relief is attainable. Schedule an evaluation with our dedicated practitioners to explore your treatment options and start your journey towards restored hand and wrist health today.