Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition of the hands and wrists. It occurs in people who must use their hands frequently in their work. When severe, it can lead to a total loss of grip and feeling in the hands. If you are experiencing pain and numbness in your hands and wrists, here is what you need to know about carpal tunnel syndrome and its treatment.
An Irritated Nerve is to Blame
The median nerve is a long nerve that travels down your forearm, through your wrists and into the palms of your hands. A narrow channel of bone in your wrists, called the carpal tunnel, allows the nerve to move through the complex structures of your wrists. This tunnel normally protects the nerve from damage. But when the conditions are right, the median nerve can become irritated here, causing pain and inflammation.
The nerve can be irritated in a number of ways:
- arthritis can cause the narrowing of the carpal tunnel
- osteoporosis can cause the bones in the wrists to become deformed
- repetitive movement of the hands and wrists during a work activity can overwork the nerve
- typing on a keyboard while resting the wrists on a desk can put pressure on the median nerve
Symptoms of Median Nerve Injury
Once the median nerve is irritated, it becomes inflamed, which causes it to rub against the bones in the carpal tunnel even more. This results in a number of symptoms:
- pain in the wrists extending into the palm of the hand
- numbness in the wrists and hands
- loss of strength and grip in the hand
When severe, you can lose the feeling in your hand completely and be unable to use your hand to pick up or hold onto anything.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment
A nerve specialist or orthopedic doctor, like those at Hand Rehabilitation Specialists, will evaluate the extent and cause of your carpal tunnel syndrome. They will then offer one or more of the following treatment options.
- anti-inflammatory pain medications to reduce the swelling of the nerve
- physical therapy to slowly relax the tense tissues in the wrists, increase circulation and reduce the inflammation
- steroid injections in the wrists to immediately reduce severe swelling and pain
- braces to support the wrists and hands in a neutral position, relieving pressure on the nerve
When these options don't provide sufficient relief, your doctor can recommend more aggressive treatment, such as:
- surgery to enlarge the carpal tunnel
- reconstruction of a carpal tunnel deformed by disease
Some people will experience bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and have symptoms in both wrists and hands. Early treatment when you first experience pain and numbness in both of your wrists is important. If left untreated and the condition becomes severe, you could face having both hands and wrists incapacitated for several weeks as they heal.