Carpal tunnel syndrome is a very common condition that affects the hand and fingers. It’s caused by a pinched nerve in your wrist, and symptoms often include pain, numbness, and loss of grip strength.
Anyone can develop carpal tunnel, but your gender, occupation, and some health conditions can increase your risk. Women are more likely to suffer carpal tunnel syndrome, as are people of both genders who have jobs that require typing or other repetitive wrist motions. Vibratory tools are especially linked to carpal tunnel syndrome causation.
There are a number of non-invasive treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome, but the condition doesn’t go away on its own and instead gets worse without treatment. If your carpal tunnel pain is severe and limits your daily life, surgery might be your best option.
For the best in orthopedic care and carpal tunnel surgery, turn to the team at Upper Extremity Specialists, a member of Synergy Orthopedic Specialists Medical Group. Kristopher Downing, MD, Daniel Brereton, DO, and our staff serve patients in Chula Vista and La Jolla, California, and we can help you find the right treatment to relieve your carpal tunnel pain.
The pain of carpal tunnel syndrome
The carpal tunnel is a passageway that runs from your wrist to your hand. It contains nerves and tendons. Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when there’s prolonged pressure on the median nerve inside your carpal tunnel.
The median nerve controls feeling and movement in all your fingers except your pinky. When it gets pinched, a variety of symptoms can develop, including:
- Loss of function
- Reduced grip strength
A naturally narrow carpal tunnel or swollen tunnel from repeated hand motions can put pressure on the median nerve.
Lifestyle modifications can make a big difference to mitigate carpal tunnel pain. Take frequent breaks if your work requires repetitive wrist or hand motions. Ask Dr. Downing about exercises or stretches that may help condition your wrists.
Wearing a wrist splint can keep your wrist straight and minimize pressure on your median nerve. Some people find that wearing a splint at night gives their wrist nerves a rest and helps eliminate numbness and tingling.
To manage pain, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid shots can be effective. With a comprehensive exam and discussion of your symptoms, Dr. Downing or Dr. Brereton can help you decide which treatment is best for your carpal tunnel pain.
Surgery: when non-invasive carpal tunnel treatments don’t relieve pain
Splinting, corticosteroids and lifestyle changes can relieve carpal tunnel pain for some people. But if carpal tunnel syndrome is advanced or you’re still experiencing numbness and pain with other treatments, it’s time to consider carpal tunnel surgery.
Surgery to treat carpal tunnel syndrome is a very common procedure that’s focused on reducing the pressure on the median nerve in your wrist. After you try managing the condition with other methods, Dr. Downing may recommend surgery to give your median nerve more space.
The two main forms of carpal tunnel surgery are endoscopic and open surgery. In endoscopic surgery, Dr. Downing makes 1-2 small incisions in your wrist and uses a tiny camera to guide tools and cut the ligament around your wrist. In open surgery, he may make an incision in your palm to cut the ligament.
After surgery, the ligament heals and grows back together, but there’s more space for your median nerve. The symptoms you experienced with carpal tunnel syndrome may immediately improve, but expect full recovery to take a few months. You may need to modify your daily activities or work to accommodate your wrist as it heals.
Don’t ignore the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. Find a treatment plan that’s right for you with the help of our team at Upper Extremity Specialists. Call us today or request your first appointment online.