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What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

I see patients almost daily with hand pain and numbness. Often they come in wondering if they have carpal tunnel syndrome. So, I thought I would share with you some information about carpal tunnel syndrome and how it is treated. First of all, carpal tunnel syndrome refers to compression of the median nerve where it enters the area of the small bones (carpal bones) of the wrist. This area is formed by the carpal bones and a transverse ligament to form a tunnel. Through this tunnel passes the median nerve. The median nerve travels to the thumb, index, long, and usually half of the ring finger.

When there is compression of the median nerve, one feels numbness, tingling and often time’s pain in the fingers. Most people have trouble at night that wakes them up with wrist and hand pain. They report having to shake, rub, and massage their hands and wrists to try to get the feeling back. Some report not being able to hold a cup, open a jar, or grip their keys in order to start their car. Sometimes pain and numbness will even be felt all the way up to the elbow or shoulder.

We don’t know what causes all carpal tunnel syndromes. But we do know they are associated with repetitive hand activities, trauma, diabetes, pregnancy, and arthritis. When patients have these symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, we treat them based on the intensity of their symptoms. With mild cases, we use night braces, avoidance of certain activities, and anti-inflammatory medicines. Often times we order a special test called a nerve study to give us a good understanding of the condition of the nerve.

With moderate symptoms, we consider adding a cortisone injection. With severe symptoms surgical decompression is usually necessary. The surgical decompression is an outpatient procedure and most patients resume normal activities with the hand and wrist in 1-3 weeks.

Most patients do very well with these treatments and can resume normal activities very quickly. If you are having symptoms similar to these, please contact us today. We will be glad to evaluate your issue and offer a treatment plan that will improve your condition.