Is hand pain, numbness, or tingling something you have been ignoring for some time now? Do your hands go numb or tingle when you read a book, drive a car, or with simple tasks around the house? Are you awakened several times each night with hand pain, numbness, or tingling that just won’t let you get any good rest? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may very well be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS can be quite debilitating, or simply a nuisance. Either way, it isn’t something to be ignored.
The anatomy of the wrist is such that on occasion a large nerve called the median nerve will be compressed in the carpal tunnel which is formed by several small bones in the wrist. The most commonly believed cause of CTS has to do with workplace factors such as repetitive or prolonged use of the wrists, especially repetitive flexing of the wrists, and excessive exposure to vibration forces. There are several other possible causes of CTS including: anatomic changes from wrist fracture or dislocation; gender (more common in females than males); chronic illnesses like diabetes; inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis; obesity; fluid retention such as is common during pregnancy; hormonal imbalances caused by menopause or thyroid disorders; and even kidney failure.
Should you be suffering with any of the symptoms described above, it is very important to seek medical care in a timely manner. There are several conservative treatments that can be enacted to work toward resolving your symptoms, and more importantly, preserving the health and longevity of the nerve function in your hands. If you choose to ignore these symptoms too long, you may very well develop permanent nerve damage for which there is no known cure, even with surgery. Why wait? Why lose sleep over something that is very treatable?
There are several conservative treatments available to bring you the relief you seek. One of the obvious first steps is to reduce exposure to environments or activities that cause undue pressure on the median nerve and/or inhibit blood flow to your wrists. Another option is to ensure you use proper form when performing repetitive tasks. This would include such things as proper posture, changing out your computer mouse or keyboard, keeping your hands warm, and taking breaks regularly. Other conservative treatment options include proper stretching, wrist bracing, over-the-counter vs. prescription strength anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy. Another possibility is a cortisone injection into the carpal tunnel to relieve pressure and swelling of the median nerve and surrounding soft tissues.
If conservative efforts do not produce the desired outcome, the providers at 7 Springs Orthopedics will direct you to a neurologist who will perform a study called electromyography (EMG) and/or a nerve conduction study (NCS) to determine the severity of the CTS. If warranted, surgery may be your best option for long term relief and restored hand function, not to mention, a sustained night’s sleep.
So, are there pesky symptoms you are ignoring for no good reason? Are you thinking, “It will eventually get better”? Don’t ignore symptoms that are meant to protect you from lifelong problems. Visit any one of our 7 Springs Orthopedics clinics for friendly, personal, and high-quality care and we’ll make sure to get you pointed in the right direction.
A pain-free good night’s rest does not have to be a thing of the past!
– Written by Brant Bell, MSM, PA-C