In today’s society, the increasing use of smartphones, tablets and computers has led to a notable increase in repetitive use injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. While symptoms of wrist pain and discomfort may not appear to describe a serious injury, if left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause permanent hand and wrist weakness due to nerve damage in these extremities.
The median nerve and carpal tunnel
Within each wrist is a narrow passageway known as the carpal tunnel, which houses the median nerve. A diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome means the median nerve has become compressed or pinched. Wrist and hand pain are typically the first symptoms. As the condition progresses, a person may begin to experience numbness and tingling throughout the affected hand. In severe cases, a person may experience hand and wrist weakness to the point where they find it difficult to perform simple tasks such as picking up a pencil.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is typically known as a repetitive use injury. Any type of task that requires a person to frequently use their hands and wrists can increase a person’s risk of eventually developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Working with tools that vibrate, along with other types of tasks that require a high demand for wrist action, can increase the likelihood of developing CTS. These include:
- Playing the piano
- Using gaming devices
Other conditions that can put pressure on the median nerve in the wrist include obesity and excessive fluid buildup, especially with conditions such as pregnancy or menopause. Health issues such as rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation of components within the wrist, leading to additional pressure on the median nerve.
If a person’s symptoms are mild, a physician may recommend conservative treatments such as:
- Avoiding actions that aggravate the wrist and hand
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Wearing a wrist brace to keep the wrist extended
- Physical therapy stretches and exercises to strengthen the wrist and hand area
If symptoms don’t improve after these conservative treatments or a person’s symptoms are severe, a physician may recommend carpal tunnel surgery.
Carpal tunnel surgery is typically an outpatient procedure. It works by cutting through the tissue that has been placing pressure on the median nerve and/or increasing the size of the passageway or carpal tunnel. After surgery, a patient can expect to wear a wrist splint for a week or two to help keep the area immobile. They’ll also be given instructions as to when and how to reintroduce movement to their hands and wrists.
Missouri Orthopedics can help relieve your pain
If you or a loved one are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, Missouri Orthopedics & Advanced Medicine can help relieve your pain. We will work to develop a treatment plan that suits you and your symptoms. Contact us today for a consultation.