Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, you're not alone. More Americans than ever—between 4 and 10 million—experience this nerve condition today, making it amongst the most common nerve disorders of the modern world. The good news is, it's highly treatable.
This inflammatory condition begs medical attention for a number of reasons. When left untreated, prolonged carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to disability and loss of hand function. Permanent muscle and nerve damage may also occur. What's more, the chronic pain that so often accompanies untreated carpal tunnel syndrome can negatively affect not only your physical health, but also your mental and emotional well—being. For these reasons and more, we’re pleased to offer you personalized medical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
In short, carpal tunnel is an inflammatory nerve condition of the wrist area. It happens when your median nerve becomes compressed as it passes through the tunnel of your wrist to your hand. This nerve compression results in tingling, numbness, pain, and burning sensations in the hand, and sometimes up to the forearm.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel is caused by repetitive stress on the wrist, which can happen by typing on a computer in a fashion that's not ergonomical for your body. If you overextend your wrist over and over again, wrist swelling is almost inevitable. That's why carpal tunnel syndrome is so common today. We all sit at our laptops in sometimes wacky positions. We all type away on a mini Ipad or cell phone for hours upon hours. And far too many of us lack proper posture and ergonomics as we do. To prevent carpal tunnel, we need to fix this mechanical malady.
However, it's not just working on a device all day that leads to carpal tunnel. Construction workers are prone to carpal tunnel syndrome. So are assembly line workers, seamstresses, hairdressers, and anyone who engages in repetitive activities that put strain on the carpal tunnel area.
What's more, there are other contributing factors to carpal tunnel syndrome—factors that run deeper than repetitive stress. They are:
- Trauma to the wrist area like dislocation of the wrist, or wrist fracture
- Anatomic factors - people (typically women) with small carpal tunnels are more likely to suffer carpal tunnel syndrome
- Thyroid conditions
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- High blood pressure
- Fluid retention from PMS, pregnancy, or perimenopause
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Because your median nerve is what helps you feel your thumb, your pointer finger, your middle finger, and part of your index finger, when it becomes compressed, you might lose sensation in these areas. What's more, tingling, numbness, and even excruciating pain often result from carpal tunnel syndrome. In the most severe cases, you lose hand strength and even hand function. One of the most common signs you have carpal tunnel is that you feel numbness or pain in your hands that wakes you up at night. Dropping objects due to a weak grip is also a common complaint.
Carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors and prevention
Did you know that women are far more likely to suffer this condition than men? Three times as many females experience carpal tunnel syndrome in their life when compared to their male counterparts, and it usually happens between the ages of 30 and 60. However, other risk factors mentioned above—high blood pressure, diabetes, and various forms of arthritis—often lead to carpal tunnel.
Lifestyle also plays a part. Excessive alcohol consumption exacerbates carpal tunnel due to its toxic, inflammatory effects. Eating foods that cause inflammation also put you at greater risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. Smoking is another habit that makes you vulnerable to carpal tunnel, as is leading a sedentary lifestyle. As with any condition, we only make it worse if we live our lives without regard to what our bodies and minds actually need to thrive.
How do we diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome at Arizona Advanced Surgery?
These days, carpal tunnel syndrome has become such a buzzword that many people think they have carpal tunnel even when they don’t. On the other hand, some people have it only to dismiss their pain, causing the condition to grow more severe. Hence, seeking a proper diagnosis with a medical expert is essential.
Our expert hand surgeon Dr. Ryan Eubanks will assess your situation and discuss options for treatment. Everyone is different, and when it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Dr. Eubanks will rule out underlying conditions such as arthritis and diabetes— which often make you more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome—and recommend treatment accordingly. If your median nerve has already suffered severe damage, carpal tunnel surgery is often the best way to go. To determine the best option for you, a physical exam, nerve conduction studies, and even steroid injections for diagnosis are performed.
What are the best solutions for Carpal Tunnel syndrome?
We typically begin with non-invasive treatments like splinting and steroid injections. If your carpal tunnel syndrome is mild, some things you can do at home include:
- Wearing wrist splints while sleeping to keep your hand, wrist, and forearm in a neutral position
- Working in the most ergonomically correct position to prevent overextension of the wrist area
- Taking anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and inflammation
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and decreasing your intake of sugar, alcohol, and processed foods and hydrogenated oils
Non-operative treatments we often use at our clinic include:
- Same day steroid injections into the carpal tunnel region.
- Physical therapy exercises
Steroid injections help reduce pain and inflammation in the area, while splinting helps maintain an ergonomically correct position for your wrist during the day, and especially while you sleep.
Carpal tunnel surgery
Operative treatments are a popular way to nip this condition in the bud if your carpal tunnel is serious enough. There are two forms of carpal tunnel surgery we do in cases where the median nerve has suffered severe damage. They are:
- Endoscopic surgery
Endoscopic surgery involves a narrow scope and small incision. It's an outpatient surgery, meaning, you come in, have the procedure, and then go home the same day. In fact, this surgery is simple and easy, only taking approximately 15-20 minutes to perform.
- Open surgery
Open surgery uses a scalpel and large incision to cut the transverse carpal ligament, which alleviates pressure on the median nerve. Open surgery is also an outpatient surgery, meaning you can go home after surgery.
Recovery time for both types of surgery vary. Generally speaking however, recovery time lasts no longer than a few months.
We're pleased that you've chosen Arizona Advanced Surgery to begin your carpal tunnel syndrome treatment, and we look forward to meeting with you soon!
Our Surgeon Specializing in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Ryan Eubanks, DO
- Hand, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon
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