Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: When a Brace Isn't Enough

You’re experiencing pain and other troubling symptoms like tingling and burning in your hand and fingers. Perhaps you’re in a job where you repeat the same motions with your hand and arm all day long: a painter, warehouse worker, office worker who uses the keyboard most of the day, or even a musician. If it’s not getting any better, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome. 

At Coastal Empire Orthopedics, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons treat hand conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome.  

What is carpal tunnel syndrome? 

This unusual sounding disorder occurs when your median nerve, extending from your forearm into the palm of your hand, becomes compressed or squeezed. The nerve must pass through the carpal tunnel, a narrow opening where your wrist and forearm meet. 

The median nerve directs and enables movement in your first four fingers as well as your thumb. When it’s irritated and inflamed, you feel pain and possibly tingling or numbness in part of your hand. If left untreated, carpal tunnel may get to the point that you have trouble twisting the lid off of a jar or even holding a cup of coffee. 

What are the best treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome? 

Our physicians begin with conservative treatment to help get your inflammation under control, whether or not you may need surgery. 

Medications

If your carpal tunnel is causing symptoms, you’re probably on a pain reliever from the drugstore. Your Coastal Empire Orthopedics physician can prescribe a stronger medication than an over-the-counter pain reliever if you need one. The pain relievers, even though required, are a temporary solution. 

Cortisone shots

If you’re in a significant amount of pain when you come to our office, your physician can administer a cortisone shot to reduce the inflammation. You should feel relief within a couple of days. 

If over-the-counter pain medications aren’t working for you, your physician can prescribe a stronger drug. Still, all medications have side effects, and pain medication should be used for limited periods. Your doctor can also give you a cortisone shot if your pain is severe and is interfering with your ability to perform a required work task. 

Splint/brace

Your doctor may try having you wear a brace or splint to help immobilize your wrist to relieve pressure on your median nerve. You’ll wear it at night to help you sleep better. The brace helps support the area so that you don’t place pressure on the nerve in your sleep.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is a tried and true approach that helps relieve carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Very gentle stretches and exercises help you strengthen the muscles and tendons surrounding the nerve. The goal is a full range of motion and normal flexibility. 

When conservative treatments for carpal tunnel don’t work 

Just as with other physical ailments, the sooner you receive treatment for carpal tunnel, the sooner you’ll experience relief. Don’t wait until you can’t move your thumb or fingers. Waiting too long may induce muscle damage that requires surgery. 

If the brace and other conservative treatments haven’t worked for you and you need surgery, your surgeon explains the procedure he will use to give you relief. He’ll widen the carpal tunnel opening to relieve pressure on the nerve. 

You’ll be on the road to recovery from your carpal tunnel syndrome with your first appointment at Coastal Empire Orthopedics. Call or book an appointment online today

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