Carpal Tunnel: What You Need to Know
There are times you don’t realize how important a function of your body is until it gets injured. You may be doing something you do every day and then pain and numbness hits your wrist. This may be the first indication that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, perhaps because the carpal tunnel itself may be smaller in women than in men.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common nerve condition where the median nerve in your wrist is being compressed. It is often confused with tendonitis— the inflammation, irritation, and swelling of a tendon— but carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive stress injury that affects the hands and fingers. Gestational carpal tunnel syndrome can also occur during pregnancy when there is swelling or fluid retention in the wrist. Whatever the case may be, it needs to be diagnosed and treated.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
• Tingling or “pins and needles” sensation in fingers and hand, most significantly in the thumb, index and middle fingers.
• Sensory loss and burning sensation, where pain may radiate up into the arm.
• Weakness and difficulty with fine motor movements.
Carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t always end in surgery. There are other ways to treat it. A conservative treatment involves wearing an extension wrist splint and taking anti-inflammatory pain relievers. You can also ice your wrist and take frequent rests from repetitive tasks, which can help to alleviate mild symptoms.
If the pain is too severe or conservative treatment doesn’t work, a surgical procedure can help. There are two types of carpal tunnel release surgeries: open and endoscopic surgery. Both surgeries use local anesthetic and do not require a hospital stay.
An open surgery is when the surgeon makes a cut in the palm of a hand. This surgical method allows the surgeon to have a better view of the nerve in order to release the pressure on the median nerve relieving the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. After the surgery is complete, the skin is closed with stiches.
The endoscopic approach is a minimally invasive surgery where the surgeon makes a small incision in the wrist (a single portal technique) or at the wrist and palm (a two-portal technique), which requires the use of an endoscope (a thin tube with a camera) along with other surgical instruments. This method allows the surgeon to see the structures in the wrist such as the ligaments and helps relieve the pressure and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Most patients who have had carpal tunnel surgery have less or no pain and numbness in their hand and better hand function after surgery.
If you are not sure if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, make sure to consult with a physician first for diagnosis and treatment. For more information on carpal tunnel release surgery at UF Health visit our website.
Call 352.265.8402 today to schedule a consultation.