You’ve experienced alternating pain and numbness in your thumb or your fingers; sometimes it moves up your forearm. Along with the pain, which can include a tingling sensation, your hand feels weak when you try to grasp something. You may have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Since the problem involves the hand, including the fingers and wrist as well as the arm, researchers believed that typing for hours on your computer keyboard was the culprit behind the condition. New studies say that’s possible, but there are many other causes.
Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons at Coastal Empire Orthopedics treat patients with carpal tunnel syndrome every week. Their expertise enables you to recover the use of your hand safely.
What causes carpal tunnel?
Carpal tunnel is a result of too much pressure on the median nerve as it moves from your arm into your wrist and hand. Your median nerve extends from your forearm through a narrow opening formed by the carpal bones in your wrist (how the carpal tunnel gets its name) and then to your hand. The nerve provides sensation and muscle control of your thumb and is also responsible for the feeling in your first three fingers.
When excess pressure is placed on your wrist, the area becomes inflamed, and your wrist swells; blood flow may be impaired as well. What causes the excess pressure?
Sometimes heredity is a factor; the passage between the carpal bones may be tiny. In many cases, though, it’s an underlying medical disorder or a combination of them. The following conditions have been associated with the development of carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Wrist position when using a mouse and keyboard for extensive computer work (more than 28 hours per week)
- Repetitive motions of the wrist - e.g., use of power tools, playing the piano
- Thyroid disorder
- Pregnancy or menopause fluid retention
- High blood pressure
- Autoimmune conditions
Recent research shows that carpal tunnel isn’t likely a result of typing if you type less than 20 hours per week. However, if you type more than 28 hours per week, you’re more likely to have an increased risk for the syndrome. Some research indicates that carpal tunnel could also result from the position of your hand on your computer mouse. More research is needed before scientists reach definitive conclusions about the link between typing and carpal tunnel.
Effective treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome
Your physician at Coastal Empire Orthopedics uses conservative treatments to reduce your pain and increase your mobility. He may recommend a wrist brace and pain medication, and then gentle exercises or physical therapy when your inflammation subsides. If you’re in a lot of pain, your doctor can give you a steroid injection to provide relief.
If conservative treatment doesn’t resolve your condition, your physician recommends carpal tunnel release, in which he widens the tunnel which your median nerve passes through.
Call or book an appointment online with Coastal Empire Orthopedics for all of your musculoskeletal needs.