reading a book or magazine, typing—suddenly, these once easy tasks have become
much more difficult. As frustrating and nagging as the burning, tingling,
itching or numbness in the hands and fingers becomes, carpal tunnel syndrome
(CTS) is extremely common. In fact, CTS is one of the most common nerve
disorders, affecting millions of Americans.
is carpal tunnel syndrome?
happens when the ligaments that make up the carpal tunnel become swollen or
irritated. Pressure on the nerve causes pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in
the fingers and wrist. Many people will notice symptoms after doing certain
activities such as driving, holding a book or those that require grasping
something for long periods of time. The nerve affected in CTS is the median
nerve which provides motor and sensory function to the hand.
causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
are a combination of factors that can cause CTS. Some factors include but are
not limited to:
- trauma or injury to the wrist that causes
- overactive pituitary gland
- underactive thyroid gland
- rheumatoid arthritis
- mechanical problems in the wrist joint
- work stress
- repeated use of vibrating hand tools
- fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause
- development of a cyst or tumor in the canal.
tunnel syndrome can affect people of any age but typically affects people who
are exposed to repetitive motions with vibrations involved,” says Bryan
Armitage, MD, Allina Health Orthopedic, Podiatry and Spine Clinic-Faribault.
“Activities like cycling can aggravate the condition…symptoms typically start
to become evident at night or in the morning after sleeping.”
what do you do?
and foremost, you should take care of your hands and wrists. Some treatments
- Avoid activities that make the symptoms worse.
Try taking frequent breaks from the tasks to rest the hand and wrist.
- Try splinting, especially at night to keep the
wrist from bending.
- Practice alternative therapies like yoga to
reduce the pain and improve grip strength.
- Consider over-the-counter pain medicine like
ibuprofen and aspirin, as it may provide short-term relieve from discomfort.
- Consider prescription medicine to relieve
pressure on the median nerve or injections of corticosteroid medicine to reduce
tunnel syndrome is typically progressive,” says Armitage. “Early stages with
temporary numbness or periodic episodes can be managed conservatively with
bracing or injections but when the condition becomes constant, surgery is
typically required to relieve pressure on the nerve before permanent damage can
for CTS is very common, successful and does not usually require a hospital
stay. Patients are able to return home after a short recovery, typically the
day of their surgery.
happens after surgery?
may be relieved immediately after surgery; however, full recovery of CTS may
take a few weeks or months. While you’re recovering, a splint may be used to
reduce wrist motion and activities should be modified. Recurrence of CTS
following treatment is rare.
think you may be a candidate for carpal tunnel release surgery, talk to your
To learn more about orthopedic services
including carpal tunnel syndrome, visit allinahealth.org/dohorthoclinic.