Aug 31

Do I Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – A New Treatment Option

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a very common condition affecting up to 7.8% of the working population. Symptoms include numbness to the thumb, index and middle finger as well as weakness and pain in the hand / wrist. Symptoms can also include pain radiating up to the shoulder and neck region. These symptoms usually worsen after strenuous or repetitive activity. They can also worsen with awkward hand positions such as driving a car, holding a phone, or while sleeping at night, which place increased pressure on the nerve. Certain conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism also increase the amount of pressure within the carpal tunnel and subsequently increase the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Patients can also be genetically prone to developing this condition because they may be born with a smaller than usual tunnel which increases the risk of developing pressure on the nerve.

This condition can lead to permanent nerve damage when left untreated. The nerve fibers can tolerate just so much pressure before the nerve cells permanently lose function. A physician can diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome with a proper history and exam. This diagnosis is then confirmed with either a nerve study, which can show the abnormal function or an ultrasound, which can show any possible areas of nerve compression.

Treatment includes conservative management with splints, anti inflammatory medications or steroids. These typically help with new or mild symptoms but are less effective as the condition progresses. It is not uncommon to hear of some initial relief with these treatment options then decreasing relief over time as these treatments lose effectiveness. Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome has been improved considerably over the last decade. New minimally invasive procedures (endoscopic release) allow the release of pressure on the nerve causing the symptoms with minimal pain and significantly quicker recovery compared to traditional open procedures. These newer minimally invasive techniques do have increased risk and should be performed by experienced surgeons for the best outcome and least risk for injury. When these endoscopic procedures are performed with the proper equipment by experienced surgeons they allow the quickest return to normal function.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is an extremely common condition, which produces symptoms of numbness, tingling, weakness in the hand and pain in the wrist. These symptoms can occur together or separately and can even radiate up the arm. This condition can be easily assessed and treated with excellent results by a hand surgeon before permanent nerve damage develops.


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