Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that develops when the median nerve in the wrist is pinched or damaged. Contrary to popular belief, carpal tunnel syndrome doesn't just affect the wrist; the median nerve branches out into the thumb, first three fingers, and parts of the forearm, so all of these extremities can be affected by the condition.
Tingling and numbness in the fingers and wrist are some of the first signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. Patients may feel as though the affected hand is not as strong as the other hand, or that they cannot grip objects as easily without feeling pain. The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may vary in severity at different times during the day, and some patients may only report pain symptoms when using the affected hand.
Repetitive motions of the wrist often cause carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, it’s a common condition among people who spend much of their time typing. However, people who suffer from conditions that cause an inflammatory response in the wrist may also develop carpal tunnel syndrome. These conditions include, but are not limited to, diabetes, arthritis, pregnancy, high blood pressure, and more. If no underlying condition is present and the patient does not perform repetitive wrist movements, a physician may investigate the possibility of an old wrist injury as the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Fortunately, mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated with conservative measures. Patients may start wearing a wrist splint when they sleep or use their wrist. This treatment is typically paired with medication that alleviates inflammation, such as over-the-counter pain relievers, and ice. Some patients may experience relief after taking frequent breaks from the aggravating activity. If the patient’s condition persists over several months, a physician may recommend a steroid injection to send soothing, anti-inflammatory medication directly into the wrist. However, this treatment option may not be a permanent solution for a patient's pain. Additional injections may be needed for adequate pain relief. The final treatment option for carpal tunnel syndrome is minimally invasive surgery, which helps release pressure from the compressed nerve by cutting a surrounding ligament.