What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common, painful, progressive condition that is caused by compression of the median nerve at the wrist area.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include numbness and tingling sensation in all the fingers except the little finger, pain and burning sensation in your hand and wrist that may radiate up the arm and elbow, and weakness in your hand with diminished grip strength.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The exact causes of the condition are not known. However, certain factors increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Congenital abnormalities
- Repetitive motion of hand and wrists
- Fractures and sprains
- Hormonal imbalance
- Medical conditions such as
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Overactive pituitary gland
- Presence of a cyst or tumor in the canal
Conservative Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome may be treated using conservative methods such as the following:
- Treating the underlying medical conditions
- Immobilization of the hand and wrist with a splint or wrist brace for 4-6 weeks
- Rest the hand for 2 weeks or more
- Ice packs to avoid swelling
- Avoid activities that tend to worsen the symptoms
- Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and steroid injections
- Strengthening and stretching exercises once symptoms diminish
Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery
If conservative methods fail to resolve the condition your doctor may recommend surgery. During a carpal tunnel release surgery:
- You will be given a local anesthetic to numb the hand and wrist area.
- Your surgeon will make an incision of typically less than 1 inch at the base of the palm.
- Special surgical instruments are used to dissect the transverse carpal ligament and enlarge the carpal tunnel thus relieving the pressure on the median nerve.
- The skin is then closed with stitches.
- Your hand is placed in a bandage.
Postoperative Care for Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery
Postoperative care for carpal tunnel release include the following:
- Elevate your hand above heart level to reduce swelling.
- Wear a splint.
- Ice packs to the surgical area to reduce swelling.
- Keep the surgical incision clean and dry. Cover the area with plastic wrap when bathing or showering.
- Physical therapy may be ordered to restore your wrist strength.
- Eating a healthy diet and not smoking will promote healing.
Risks and Complications of Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery
Most people do not experience any complications following carpal tunnel release surgery. The potential risks of carpal tunnel surgery include pain, infections, scarring, and nerve damage causing weakness, paralysis, or loss of sensation and stiffness in the hand and wrist area.