Understanding carpal tunnel syndrome
According to The American College of Rheumatology, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is one of the most common hand ailments, affecting 4 to 10 million Americans. Females are three times more likely than males to develop CTS. It affects the wrist and hand and occurs when too much pressure is put on the median nerve, which runs through the wrist to the hand and fingers.
Carpal tunnel doesn’t have a specific cause, but there are common causes including overuse (frequent, repetitive movement with the hands), wrist injuries or metabolic/hormonal changes. Anything that might cause the wrist to swell can lead to CTS.
Common symptoms of CTS include:
- Pain, usually in your hand, but can be in your arm or shoulder
- Numbness, tingling, “pins and needles” in the hand or fingers
- Burning feeling in the hand or fingers
- Wrist tenderness
- Wrist swelling
- Weakness or loss of strength in your hand
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome depends on your specific symptoms. Treatment could include:
- Wrist splints: Wrist splints can help reduce pressure by keeping your wrist in a certain position.
- Exercises: Usually prescribed by an occupational therapist, physical therapist or a physician.
- Medicine: Medicine is used to help reduce swelling. As swelling goes down, pressure is relieved.
- Medicine injected into the wrist: Steroids can be injected into the wrist to help bring down swelling
“During surgery, a small incision is made on the palm side of your hand,” says Dr. Surbi Panchal, orthopedic surgeonon staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Illinois. “This opens up the carpal tunnel, relieving pressure on the median nerve. The operation usually takes about an hour, and you can go home the same day.”
If you have some of the symptoms listed above, don’t self-diagnose or you could potentially wind up much worse. Make an appointment to see a physician who is experienced in diagnosing and treating carpal tunnel syndrome.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.