FAQs on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment in Houston
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Derived from a Greek word Karpos, Carpus means “wrist.” Carpal tunnel is the tight space between the band of fibrous tissue and wrist bone through which passes the median nerve beneath the transverse carpal ligament. The carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is pressure on the median nerve, which is responsible for receiving sensations from the arm to the hand.
Any condition that changes position of the fibrous band can squeeze and irritate the median nerve, which may further cause tingling and numbness in the index finger, thumb, and middle finger and weakness and pain in the hand.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome caused?
Pressure on the median nerve caused by swelling is the prime cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Swelling of the tendons due to repetitive wrist and hand movements causes extreme pressure on the carpal tunnel and median nerve.
Repeated movements strain and overwork hand muscles and cause swelling and irritation in the carpal tunnel tendons, leaving no space for swollen flexor tendons to expand. As a result, the inflamed tendons expand over the median nerve, putting additional pressure on the median nerves and carpal tunnel.
With the increase in pressure due to tight muscles and swollen tendons, there is a collapse of blood-carrying structures, resulting in edema and fibrosis of the median nerve. When the nerve does not receive proper nutrition, it cannot carry out its normal functioning and fails to conduct synaptic impulses, resulting in pain, tingling, burning, numbness, and loss of motor function.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Tingling of fingers and numbing of hands are the first symptoms people start to experience. These symptoms are more pronounced at night and often wake them up from sleep. Other symptoms include:
- Difficulty gripping objects
- Pain in the wrist/hand
- Numbness/tingling in fingers, thumb, or palm
- Pain in the elbow
- Frequent sleep interruption
- Burning sensation in the forearm
- Swollen sensation in fingers
- Inhibited hand/ wrist movement
- Constant aching of upper shoulder
- Decreasing grip strength
- Loss of sensation in thumb and fingers
If the condition worsens, chronic carpal tunnel syndrome may cause atrophy of hand muscles.
What are the risk factors for developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Though the syndrome can affect anyone, people who do repetitive hand and wrist movement are at a high risk. Even obese people or those affected by rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes are more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome.
How is the syndrome diagnosed?
The doctor will examine your elbow, shoulder, neck, and reflexes to rule out other conditions that have the same symptoms as carpal tunnel syndrome. Examination of the wrist for tenderness, warmth, swelling, discoloration, and deformity may be performed. Tapping of the wrist can cause tingling of the hand. Symptoms can be reproduced by bending the wrist downward. A nerve conduction velocity test is performed to measure the rate of electrical impulses. In carpal tunnel syndrome, impulses gradually slow down while crossing through the carpal tunnel.
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome treated?
The treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of your symptoms. The most conservative treatment for mild to moderate cases includes
- Wearing a carpal tunnel brace or wrist splint to improve symptoms and nerve functioning
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications
- Treating pain and inflammation with hot and cold compresses
For chronic carpal tunnel syndrome, patients may be given therapeutic injections of corticosteroids to reduce swelling and pain.
Each therapy provides immediate relief to some extent. A combination of physical therapy and medication management will help in the reversal of the syndrome. Yoga and acupuncture are also known to provide relief from symptoms.
The doctor may also advise rest, stretching and exercises, depending on your condition. Changing your repetitive movements can offer temporary relief. If conservative treatment does not provide long-term relief from symptoms, Carpal Tunnel Release surgery is recommended.
But surgery doesn’t come without its share of risks and complications. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, over 500,000 people in the United States opt for surgeries to treat the syndrome symptoms. In different trials, 70–90% of patients who had undergone surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome were free from nighttime pain afterward.
It is important that surgery be used as the last resort, especially when alternative, conservative, and conventional treatments offer hope.