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Carpal tunnel syndrome: When to consider treatment
You might think that carpal tunnel syndrome is a new condition of the Information Age, borne from long hours of computer keyboarding. However, carpal tunnel syndrome is nothing new. Evidence of people experiencing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome occurs in medical records dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Bound by bones and ligaments, the carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway — about as big around as your thumb — located on the palm side of your wrist. This tunnel protects a main nerve to your hand and nine tendons that bend your fingers. Pressure placed on the nerve produces the numbness, pain, and eventually, hand weakness that characterize carpal tunnel syndrome.
Fortunately, for most people who develop carpal tunnel syndrome, proper treatment usually can relieve pain and numbness, and restore normal use of wrists and hands.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome typically starts gradually with a vague aching in your wrist that can extend to your hand or forearm. Other common signs and symptoms include:
- Tingling or numbness in fingers or hands
- Pain radiating or extending from the wrist up the arm to the shoulder or down into palms or fingers
- A sense of hand weakness and a tendency to drop objects
- A constant loss of feeling
What are treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome?
If you experience mild symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, you can ease discomfort by taking more frequent hand rest breaks and applying cold packs to reduce occasional swelling. Other options for treatment may involve special types of physical therapy, heat, massage and other relaxation techniques.
If signs and symptoms you attribute to carpal tunnel syndrome interfere with normal activities, including sleep, and they persist, see your health care team. If diagnosed early, there are many nonsurgical options to help improve carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, such as wrist splinting, taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug or receiving a cortisone injection to relieve pain. If the symptoms do not respond to nonsurgical treatment methods, surgery may be an option. If left untreated, nerve and muscle damage can occur.
Want to learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome?
To learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome or other upper extremity conditions, please schedule a consultation with an orthopedic provider.