Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
WHAT IS CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME?
The carpal tunnel is an area in the wrist which encompasses the tendons and the median nerve, hence it has a tunnel-like structure. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused when the tunnel gets swollen and places pressure on the median nerve.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CTS?
People suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome experience constant pain in their hand. The intensity of the pain and discomfort may increase at night when the muscles relax. There is also a tingling sensation and in some cases, people also experience numbness in the hand and wrist. Over time, the grip strength will also weaken and the hand gets clumsier, which is the case if the condition is not treated.
WHAT ARE THE LIKELY CAUSES?
The most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is repetitive motion of the wrists. Any activity which forces the median nerve in the wrist to push up against the carpal tunnel can lead to this condition, particularly if it is performed regularly over a period of time. Some medical conditions are also known to cause CTS, including diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. An injury to the wrist, particularly a fracture, can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome over time.
HOW IS CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME DIAGNOSED?
The most suitable treatment for you will depend on the root cause of the condition and the impact it has on your wrist and hand. During the diagnosis, the doctor will ask you to move your wrist around and perform certain activities. This will enable the doctor to gauge the strength and range of joint motion of your hand and a treatment will be prescribed accordingly.
HOW IS CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME TREATED?
Doctors generally recommend patients make lifestyle changes to reduce the repetitive strain on their wrists to keep the condition from exacerbating. Hand therapy is also prescribed as an effective treatment and you may have to perform certain exercises for a period of time. These will boost the blood flow to the wrist and help in pain management. Surgery is usually the last resort when it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome pain management.
A couple of commonly used treatments are:
- Bracing: The wrist is put in a brace for a period of time. You have the option to wear the brace throughout the day or just at night, when you are not working. Several studies have proven bracing results in a reduction in intensity of the symptoms and pain, even in patients with severe CTS.
- Steroid Injection: The affected wrist is injected with steroids which help ease the swelling and provide relief from pain. Steroid injections are considered a temporary treatment and follow-ups are required every couple of years.