You’ve been clumsy lately because you’re having a problem with your hand. You have pain on the side of your hand with your thumb. At night, your hand sometimes goes numb. You may have carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s time to see an orthopedic specialist. Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons with Coastal Empire Orthopedics treat many patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of your median nerve, which extends from your upper arm into your forearm, and then passes through your wrist into your hand. When the nerve moves through the wrist, it has to go through a narrow passage called the carpal tunnel. If the passageway is constricted, the nerve becomes compressed, causing it to swell.
You’ll experience the symptoms of the syndrome, which include pain, numbness, or weakness in your hand. You may experience bolts of pain that move into your arm. The nerve can affect the thumb and all of the fingers except your little finger.
How did I get carpal tunnel syndrome?
Environmental and hereditary factors come into play in people with carpal tunnel syndrome. Do you use repetitive motions of your fingers or hand in your job or a hobby? Typing on a keyboard all day or working in a job that requires repetitive wrist motions such as hammering or working with power tools that cause vibration are environmental factors that can result in the syndrome.
If none of the environmental factors apply to you, you may have inherited a small carpal tunnel making it easier for the nerve to become compressed. Trauma such as a wrist fracture can also result in nerve compression. Arthritis and diabetes place you at higher risk for the condition. Even being pregnant can cause carpal tunnel because of increased fluid retention; it can cause swelling that puts pressure on the nerve.
Will carpal tunnel go away on its own?
If your carpal tunnel is at early onset and you give your hand complete rest and use a splint at night to protect your wrist, the symptoms may disappear. However, you’re dependent on your hands for so many tasks during the day that it may be impossible to stop using one of them.
If symptoms persist without treatment and progress to the point where you need surgery, it can take three months for the numbness to disappear. Our physicians advise seeking early treatment to avoid long-term permanent nerve damage.
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome
Treatment of carpal tunnel is multifaceted.
Medication, ice, and rest
You may already be taking over-the-counter pain medication. Resting the hand and wrist is critical. Putting your wrist in an ice bath can help reduce symptoms.
Ergonomic changes and work accommodations
If the cause of your carpal tunnel is environmental, you need to seek accommodations for your work activity or take a break from your hobby. If using a small keyboard contributes to your symptoms, get a split keyboard which eases the pressure on your wrists. If you hold the hammer in a death grip, loosen it up. If the job contributes to your condition, ask for accommodations such as a switch to low vibration tools and more frequent breaks.
Your physician may have you wear a splint at night to protect your wrist; it relieves pressure on the median nerve. You may also wear the splint during the day.
Your Coastal Empire Orthopedics physician may prescribe physical therapy to strengthen the muscles surrounding the nerve. They may have atrophied if you’ve experienced numbness. You can continue the exercises after your symptoms have disappeared to help prevent another attack in the future.
If your pain is severe and you can’t function during the day, your physician may recommend a cortisone shot to alleviate your discomfort.
Your board-certified physician may recommend surgery if you don’t improve with conservative treatments. The procedure only takes about 10 minutes, and a local anesthetic can be used.
Call Coastal Empire Orthopedics today or book an appointment online if you’re having pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands or arms and for all of your orthopedic needs.