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Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Jan 29, 2015

Have you been dealing with the painful effects of carpal tunnel syndrome? This frustrating condition causes hand numbness and pain which can make even simple tasks difficult. Fortunately, there are treatment options available that help relieve your pain and get you back to normal. Keep reading to find out how these methods can benefit you.

The carpal tunnel in the wrist is a narrow, tube-like structure made up of bones and a ligament. The median nerve is inside this tunnel and runs from the forearm to the hand. This nerve is responsible for the feeling in the palm side of the thumb, index finger, and long fingers, as well as the muscles in the base of the thumb. The flexor tendons that bend the fingers and thumb also run through the carpal tunnel. When the tissue around the flexor tendons in the wrist become inflamed, they put pressure on the median nerve which causes the numbness and pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by repetitive hand use over time, a small physical tunnel due to genetics, or hormonal changes from pregnancy. It’s also possible for carpal tunnel syndrome to occur after a trauma such as a sprain or fracture. Older adults are also more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as those with medical conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalances.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome typically appear gradually, but become constant over time. The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pain
  • Shock-like feeling in thumb and fingers
  • Pain traveling up the arm

Non-Operative Treatment Methods

If you are experiencing any symptoms of carpal tunnel, contact your doctor right away to schedule an appointment. Your doctor will examine your wrist and hand, and test the muscles for numbness or tingling. He or she will then suggest one of the following treatment methods based on his or her findings:

  • Brace or Splint – This will stabilize the wrist and keep it still in order to prevent irritation to the median nerve.
  • Medication – Anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, will prevent swelling and inflammation that causes pain.
  • Change Activity – If you’re performing an activity that’s aggravating your carpal tunnel syndrome and causing you pain, your doctor may recommend avoiding that activity to prevent further damage.

Operative Treatments

If non-operative treatment methods haven’t been effective in relieving your pain, you may want to consider undergoing a surgical procedure. Your physician may also suggest surgery if you’re dealing with severe carpal tunnel because oftentimes this approach can help prevent irreversible damage.

During a carpal tunnel release procedure, your surgeon will create more room for the median nerve and tendons passing through the tunnel. This will reduce pain and improve function so you can get back to performing your daily activities.

This procedure is typically performed on an outpatient basis so you’ll be able to go home the same day of surgery. You’ll likely be in a splint for a week or so during your recovery. Some patients elect to join a physical therapy program following surgery to aide their recovery and regain a full range of motion.

If you’re dealing with the painful effects of carpal tunnel syndrome, there are many treatments available that can help you feel better. If your condition is severe and you are considering surgery, download our e-book, How to Choose an Orthopaedic Surgeon. This educational guide will help you find a reputable surgeon you can trust.