What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Pain and tingling in the hand that is caused from pressure occurring on the median nerve located within the wrist is referred to as carpal tunnel syndrome. The area affected is the median nerve, comprised of several tendons and nerves that extend from the forearm into the hand and wrist spaces.
Over eight million Americans suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, and a large portion of this population suffers from chronic pain that requires surgical procedures and San Diego pain management in order to carry out daily activities and work.
While the condition is common and affects a large population of people, the good news is that carpal tunnel syndrome is treatable. You don’t have to live with the pain associated with this condition.
What are the common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome?
This painful condition occurs when the tissues that surround the tendons in the wrist become inflamed or swell and cause pressure to be placed on the median nerve that is found in the wrist. It is the median nerve that provides feeling and mobility to the palm side of the hand. There are several different causes of this condition, some of which are hereditary in nature. This means that a person who is prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome was born with a small sized carpal tunnel (the space or area in the wrist where the nerve enters the hand).
Carpal tunnel commonly affects individuals between the ages of 30 and 65 years old (working age). In fact, many believe that repetitive movements of the wrist and hands, such as computer or keyboard work, may contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. The condition affects women more than men, mostly middle-aged.
Contributing factors to the condition include being overweight, having pre-existing bone fractures in the wrist, rheumatoid arthritis, cysts or tumors found in the medial nerve area, or alcohol abuse.
What are the symptoms caused by carpal tunnel syndrome?
Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the condition; however, some of the most commonly reported issues include:
- Numbness and tingling in the hand, palm, fingers and thumb
- Pain that radiates down the forearm, originating at the elbow and continuing into the wrist
- Overall weakness of the wrist and hand
- Clumsiness when picking up items or gripping objects
- Problems associated with moving the fingers or rotating the hand and wrist
- Weakness in both hands and arms
How is the condition diagnosed and treated?
The first step in diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome is a complete physical examination. During the exam, tests designed to measure muscle weakness, strength in gripping and level of numbness are conducted. Your San Diego pain doctor will gather a complete medical history and most times order further diagnostic testing, which may include wrist x-rays, nerve conduction velocity exams and electromyography.
The goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms and pain associated with carpal tunnel issues. Medication to reduce pain and inflammation may be given. Some of the most common medications offered are anti-inflammatories such as naproxen and ibuprofen. Cortisone injections may provide some form of relief from pain for a short period of time and are administered in the wrist site.
Carpal tunnel bracing is very effective and can be worn during the day or while sleeping. The brace keeps the carpal tunnel in a neutral position, which is beneficial in pain relief by reducing the pressure.
For the most severe cases of carpal tunnel, a surgical procedure known as a carpal tunnel release may be required. Pain management is the number one goal of carpal tunnel. Surgery for the condition is highly successful and offers a 76% success rate in most patients. However, there are cases in which surgery is not an option and pain management is the only effective way to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
According to statistical data collected more than half of all patients with the condition require surgery. Healing can take many months and often the patient does not have immediate relief from symptoms (Springer et al., 2007). The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 47% of cases where carpal tunnel resulted in surgery were considered to be work related. As a result of these significant numbers, it is important for treatment to include modifications to lifestyle and in some cases, vocational rehabilitation.
Can carpal tunnel syndrome be prevented?
The likelihood of developing carpal tunnel issues can be reduced if repetitive movements are limited over time. Using ergonomic devices and aids can help position the hands and wrists, helping to prevent the syndrome from arising. Some of the most common aids include split keyboards, typing pads and braces. Overall improvements to wrist posture can greatly reduce the risk of carpal tunnel problems from developing. When typing for prolonged periods of time, it is important to take breaks, especially if you begin to notice any tingling, pain or numbness.
If pain begins, it is important to see a San Diego pain specialist right away for a complete assessment and care. There is no need to suffer through the symptoms; pain management and treatment of symptoms can help reduce the problems.
If you or a loved one is suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome in San Diego, let the California Pain Network connect you with the best pain management San Diego has to offer. Simply complete the contact form or call (619) 500-1573 today!