Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is caused by pressure on the median nerve at the wrist. This condition creates numbness, tingling, and general pain in the arm, hand, and fingers. Typically, the thumb, index, middle, and half of the ring finger are where patients feel the most discomfort.
The main symptoms are numbness, tingling, and general pain in the hand and fingers. Many patients with carpal tunnel describe the pain as being worse when driving and while sleeping. A weak grip is associated with CTS, and often it is difficult for patients to button shirts or pick coins up from a table. In extreme cases (feeling may be permanently lost), the thenar muscles (the muscle at the base of the thumb) will flatten and shrink.
Many active papers and studies are being conducted to find the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, but at this time, the cause is unknown. Past injuries, pregnancy, and underlying medical conditions (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis & diabetes), can be associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s possible that repetitive movements and motions can contribute to developing carpal tunnel too.
Treatment and Solutions
The first step in the healing process is to find a qualified doctor to pinpoint the issue. Either a hand surgeon or physical medicine and rehabilitation physician will be able to perform a physical evaluation, order imaging, or conduct a nerve study to diagnosis your issue. After identifying CTS, there are several ways to alleviate the pain. Typically, your doctor will start with non-surgical solutions first. Non-surgical corrections include a wrist brace, steroid injections, physical therapy, and possibly suggest using different ergonomics in the activities that cause you pain.
If the conservative measures do not work, your physician might suggest a surgical approach. This is considered a relatively minor surgery. Some surgeons do not require general anesthesia but rather use a local anesthetic. The goal is to relieve pressure off of the Median Nerve surgically. This is a short procedure that usually takes 30-45 minutes to complete.
Recovery time varies. In some cases, the pain is eliminated following surgery, but the pain never fully disappears in some extreme cases. In most cases, the numbness and pain will go away after a few weeks. It will take a few months to restore the strength in your hand.