Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common complaints of nerve impingement. The anatomy of the wrist, health issues, and repetitive hand motions can all contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The median nerve travels through a protective sheath in the wrist area called the carpal tunnel. When the median nerve is compressed along its pathway, this condition can develop.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The onset of symptoms is slow and gradual, usually the first sign being a tingling or numbness in the fingers and hand. The first fingers to experience it are the thumb, index finger, and middle finger, and possibly also the ring finger. The pinky is not affected in carpal tunnel syndrome.
This condition can be accompanied by discomfort in the wrist and palm. The sensation can feel like an electric shock which sometimes travels up the arm, usually when holding the steering wheel or a newspaper. Holding or gripping an object can become difficult.
Many people try shaking their hands to try to relieve symptoms. Over time, this fails to correct the issue, and the hands become numb and stay numb eventually.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel
Pressure on a nerve can further affect other downstream nerves. The median nerve runs along the arm from the shoulder to the hand, and it provides nerve signals that control the movement of all fingers except the pinky. Anything that irritates the median nerve in the space of the carpal tunnel can lead to the development of the syndrome.
There is no single cause, and it usually develops due to a combination of factors. A wrist fracture can narrow the tunnel, as can inflammation and swelling from diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Anatomical factors and injuries such as a wrist fracture, dislocated wrist, having a smaller-than-normal carpal tunnel, and arthritis can all affect the bones of the wrist, putting pressure on the median nerve.
Gender also plays a role: Carpal tunnel is more frequently seen in women than in men, as the tunnels are generally smaller in women. People who suffer chronic nerve-damaging conditions like diabetes are also at an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel.
How Is This Condition Treated?
If splinting, nerve gliding, pain medications, corticosteroid injections, and activity changes do not improve the symptoms, surgery is usually recommended. The surgery is called a “carpal tunnel release,” and it can be performed in two different ways. They both aim to release pressure by cutting the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel, resulting in a larger tunnel that does not continue to place pressure on the median nerve.
Open Carpal Tunnel Release
An open carpal tunnel release is done by making an incision over the carpal tunnel in order to cut the ligament and thereby widen the diameter of the tunnel. This releases the pressure on the median nerve.
Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release
In endoscopic carpal tunnel release, the surgeon will make one or two small incisions. The physician will then use a miniature endoscopic camera to view the structure and divide the transverse carpal tunnel and perform the same surgery as above.
Who Can Help with My Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
If you or a loved one is suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome or wrist pain, get the medical attention it requires by seeing the hand surgeons at Greater Chesapeake Hand to Shoulder.
Call us at (410) 296-6232 or request an appointment online, and get relief from your hand weakness, wrist pain, and other symptoms – so you can get back to the lifestyle you love!