Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common and troublesome condition that interferes with the use of the hand. It is caused when too much pressure (overuse, computer usage, too much of the same motion) is put on a nerve that runs through your wrist. A variety of anatomical abnormalities may be responsible for the vise-like pressure. Once symptoms of pain and tingling appear, the condition frequently worsens and permanent nerve damage may occur. However, CTS is highly treatable if diagnosed early.
The pain, numbness and tingling of CTS can happen anywhere and anytime, at home or at work. But most often symptoms begin by waking you up at night. Shaking or massaging the hand may work temporarily, but if ignored, CTS gets progressively worse. The pain increases, the grip weakens, and you may begin dropping things. Fortunately, appropriate treatment is available.
It’s always best to prevent a condition, and CTS is no exception. But if you do notice symptoms, don’t wait for them to become unbearable. The earlier you have a professional diagnosis and treatment, the more successful the outcome will be.
Your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms, which may feel like tingling, numbness, pins and needles, pain, or heaviness in the hands and fingers. Your doctor will need to know if symptoms are mild and intermittent or severe and frequent, and whether they bother you only at night, or during the day, or both.
The physical exam helps confirm that symptoms are related to a nerve problem, and then to localize the nerve problem to the wrist. Your doctor will examine your wrist for swelling and signs of previous injury. You may be tested for decreased sensitivity to touch or to pin pricks. Other simple nerve tests include:
- Tinel’s Test: Your doctor gently taps over the nerve with his or her fingers.
- Phalen’s Test: Your wrist is held in a flexed position for a period of time.
After the history and exam, your doctor may order additional tests to confirm and document the diagnosis of CTS if surgery is being considered. These include standard wrist or carpal tunnel x-rays; a nerve conduction test and an electromyogram are an objective means of making a definitive diagnosis.
Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome usually begins with a wrist splint, medications, or a combination of the two. These simple, nonsurgical treatments help at least temporarily in many cases, especially if symptoms are mild. Splints and medications may also function as an interim treatment – they provide some measure of relief if you are going to have surgery.
Surgery may be recommended if you have severe pain, if you have other symptoms that persist in spite of nonsurgical treatment, or if you are at risk of developing permanent nerve damage. Your doctor will explain the procedure, its risks and complications, and give you pre-op and post-op instructions, which may include rehabilitation exercises to restore hand function.
If you are experiencing any symptoms similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome contact The Law Offices of Robert R. Pagniello, P.C. today, do not delay!