Doc Talk: Five things you should know about carpal tunnel syndrome

11/13/2012 7:26 AM

08/08/2014 10:13 AM

Anyone can suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. The more you know about the condition, the easier it is to recognize it and the more quickly you can seek relief.

What is it?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common musculoskeletal disorder. While it’s often associated with repetitive motion in the workplace or during leisure activities, it can also develop in patients with diabetes or thyroid disease, or during pregnancy.

Common symptoms

• Numbness, tingling or pain in your thumb, index or middle fingers
• Numbness in your entire hand
• Swelling and tightness in your hand
• Pain that shoots from your hands up through your arm.

Associated symptoms

• Difficulty grasping or holding objects
• Dropping objects more than usual
• Numbness that is worse at night or when you first get up in the morning
• Weakness in the hands or arms in the morning
• Trouble opening a lid on a jar or tightening a screw with a screwdriver.

Causes

Carpal tunnel syndrome is often caused by swelling in the carpal tunnel of the wrist, which puts pressure on the median nerve, creating pain, numbness and tingling. Usually the first symptoms are mild and, infrequent and may improve with rest. As use of the hand or wrist increases with repetitive tasks such as typing, the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can become worse.

Treatment

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity and frequency of symptoms. Early diagnosis is important to successful treatment. Options may include stretching, wrist braces or splints, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, strengthening exercises or cortisone steroid injection. Surgery is usually the last option, for people who have not responded to non-operative treatments. Sometimes your physician will request a special nerve test known as a nerve conduction study/electromyography (NCS/EMG) to help with the diagnosis and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.

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