Why Family Medicine is ImportantCarpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that can cause discomfort and limitations for many. From pain and numbness to weakness in the hand and arm, this condition can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

Individuals who frequently engage in repetitive tasks, such as typing or operating machinery, are particularly susceptible. But fear not, there's help at hand! Discover the Orthopedic Specialist SW Florida, where we offer services, including wrist splinting and corticosteroid injections, to diagnose, treat, and manage CTS.

With their expertise and individualized care, you can find relief and improve your hand function. Let's delve into the discussion and explore more about this condition.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm. It occurs when the median nerve in the wrist becomes compressed.

The carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway formed by the bones and ligaments of the wrist, houses the median nerve and the tendons that control finger movement. Recognizing the early signs of CTS is crucial to allow timely intervention and prevent further nerve damage.

Recognizing early signs of CTS is crucial for timely intervention and preventing further nerve damage. Symptoms start gradually and include burning, tingling, itching, or numbness in the palm and fingers, especially the thumb, index, and middle fingers.

As symptoms worsen, tingling may occur during the day, grip strength decreases, and fine motor tasks become challenging. If you notice yourself shaking your hand or wrist frequently, especially upon waking up, it could indicate CTS. Difficulties with fine motor tasks and avoiding activities that pressure the wrist are also common. Consult a health professional, like the experts at Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida, to discuss your treatment options.

  • Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrom

    These are various factors that contribute to the development of CTS:

    1. Repetitive Motion: Engaging in repetitive hand and wrist movements can result in inflammation in the tendons of the carpal tunnel, leading to pressure on the median nerve. This is commonly observed in individuals who spend long hours using a computer, musicians, artists, and those employed on assembly lines.
    2. Genetic Factors: Some individuals may naturally have a smaller carpal tunnel, making them more prone to developing CTS. This characteristic can be hereditary, meaning if your family members have been diagnosed with CTS, you may have an increased risk.
    3. Health Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, and rheumatoid arthritis, can contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. These conditions can cause fluid retention or inflammation, leading to increased pressure within the carpal tunnel.
    4. Age: The risk of developing CTS rises with age. Ligaments and tendons can become less flexible and more susceptible to inflammation, resulting in increased pressure on the median nerve.
    5. Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can lead to fluid retention, causing swelling in various parts of the body, including the wrists. This swelling can compress the median nerve and give rise to symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
    6. Injury or Trauma: Wrist injuries, such as sprains or fractures, can cause swelling that exerts pressure on the median nerve. Additionally, the deformity resulting from the trauma can also narrow the carpal tunnel.

Work-Related Causes

  1. Prolonged Computer Use: Individuals who spend a significant portion of their day typing on a keyboard may experience an increased risk of developing CTS. The repetitive motion and positioning of the wrists can cause strain, which may lead to inflammation in the carpal tunnel.
  2. Manual Labor: Jobs that require regular, forceful hand movements such as construction, gardening or assembly line work can put a lot of stress on the wrists. This increased stress can lead to inflammation and swelling, causing compression on the median nerve.
  3. Repeated Use of Tools: Occupations that involve the frequent use of handheld tools, particularly those that vibrate (like jackhammers or drills), can trigger CTS. The vibrations can cause damage to the nerve over time, leading to the condition.
  4. Jobs Requiring Fine Motor Skills: Professions like surgeons, dentists, or artists, that demand precision and fine motor control, can lead to muscle strain and inflammation in the wrist. The continuous and precise movements may increase pressure on the median nerve, contributing to CTS.
  5. Frequent Heavy Lifting: Occupations that involve consistent heavy lifting, like warehouse workers or movers, can place a significant strain on the wrist and potentially lead to CTS. The strain can cause a thickening of protective tissue around the tendons in the wrist, reducing the amount of space in the carpal tunnel and compressing the median nerve.

Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

To diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, doctors typically:

  1. Ask About Symptoms: This includes asking about the pattern of symptoms, such as whether certain activities provoke symptoms and if the symptoms occur in one or both hands.
  2. Physical Examination: The doctor may check for decreased sensation in the fingers, a weak thumb, or other signs of muscle damage.
  3. Electromyogram: This test measures the tiny electrical discharges produced in muscles. A needle electrode is inserted into a muscle, and its electrical activity is recorded when the muscle is at rest and when it's contracted.
  4. Nerve Conduction Study: In a variation of electromyography, two electrodes are taped to the skin above the median nerve. A small shock is passed through the median nerve to see if electrical impulses are slowed in the carpal tunnel.
  5. Ultrasound or MRI: An ultrasound or MRI can provide a more detailed view of the median nerve and identify any physical abnormalities that could be causing pressure on the nerve.

When To See Your Doctor

If you begin to experience persistent symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome such as frequent tingling, numbness in the fingers, weaknesses in the hand, or discomfort in the wrist and arm, it is critical to seek medical advice promptly.

Ignoring these symptoms can lead to irreversible nerve damage and long-term complications. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve the prognosis and alleviate symptoms.

If you're engaged in work or hobbies that involve repetitive hand or wrist motion, discuss this with your doctor to get advice on preventive measures. Always remember that timely medical intervention is essential in managing and treating carpal tunnel syndrome effectively.

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Understanding the treatment options available for CTS is crucial for effective management and recovery. This section is devoted to exploring the diverse treatments—surgical and non-surgical—available to combat this ailment.

  • Non Surgical Treatments

    1. Wrist Splinting: Wearing a wrist splint, primarily at night prevents, the wrist from bending, reducing pressure on the median nerve and relieving symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. The splint supports the carpal bones and maintains the wrist in a neutral position. However, some patients may find the splints uncomfortable and they might not alleviate symptoms for everyone.
    2. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen may help alleviate pain and inflammation. These can be effective for short-term symptom relief, but they don't treat the underlying cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Long-term use can also lead to side effects such as stomach pain, heart problems, and liver or kidney damage.
    3. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen may help alleviate pain and inflammation. These can be effective for short-term symptom relief, but they don't treat the underlying cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Long-term use can also lead to side effects such as stomach pain, heart problems, and liver or kidney damage.
    4. Corticosteroids: These can be taken orally or injected directly into the wrist to reduce inflammation and swelling, providing temporary relief. While they can be highly effective, they only offer temporary relief and repeated use can result in side effects like weakened immune system and thinning of skin.
    5. Physical Therapy and Stretching Exercises: Regular exercises stretching the wrist and hand can help to reduce symptoms and prevent further development of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. There's no cost involved and no side effects, but it requires discipline and consistency.
      In severe cases where non-invasive methods fail to provide relief, carpal tunnel surgery may be considered as a treatment option.
  • Surgical Treatments

    • Carpal tunnel release surgery is a common surgical procedure performed to relieve the pressure on the median nerve, helping to alleviate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. This procedure can be done through two methods: open release surgery and endoscopic surgery. Carpal tunnel release, also known as carpal tunnel syndrome surgery, is a surgical procedure that can be considered for managing CTS
    • Open Release Surgery: In this traditional surgical procedure, a small incision is made in the wrist, allowing the surgeon to cut the transverse carpal ligament and relieve pressure on the median nerve. The surgery has a high success rate but does carry some risks, including infection, nerve damage, and scarring. Recovery times can vary, but most people regain full hand function within a few months.
    • Endoscopic Surgery: This is a less invasive surgical option involving a tiny camera (endoscope) that is inserted through a small incision in the wrist or hand. The camera guides the surgeon to the transverse carpal ligament, which is then cut to relieve pressure on the median nerve. Endoscopic surgery usually results in less pain and a quicker recovery than open release surgery. However, it does have a slightly higher risk of complications, including nerve damage.
      Regardless of the type of surgery, some patients may experience a decrease in grip strength or wrist strength post-surgery. Furthermore, those with underlying neurological disorders may find that surgery doesn't completely eliminate their symptoms. As with any surgical procedure, it's important to discuss the potential risks and recovery process with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision.

Get The Treatment Yo Need For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be distressing and debilitating. Don't let it impede your daily activities.

Seek professional help without delay. Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating carpal tunnel syndrome. Their personalized approach restores hand function and enhances your quality of life. Book an appointment with Orthopedic Specialists of SW Florida today and take the first step to recovery.