With a good percentage of the population employed at a desk-related job or in an assembly facility, instances of carpal tunnel syndrome have seen a steady increase over time. This rise in complaints of hand and wrist pain has also followed the upward trend of the number of hours individuals spend time on a handheld mobile device every day. Technology isn’t going anywhere fast, so it’s important to know the early warning signs of carpal tunnel syndrome in order to catch it and address it as early as possible.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel syndrome develops over time and is not the result of a direct injury. This is why it is attributed to people who work with computers a lot during the day (such as IT personnel, assembly line workers, data entry, etc), who have to routinely perform the type of action that can trigger carpal tunnel syndrome.
The carpal tunnel, which is a rigid and small passageway consisting of bones and ligaments also contains what is called the median nerve. This small area controls a large part of the function of your hand, though only through the following areas: the base-side of the thumb, the index finger, the middle finger, and sometimes the ring finger as well. The pinky finger will typically remain completely unaffected.
Swelling or irritation can cause this tunnel to narrow, putting pressure on the median nerve, causing weakness and numbness in those parts of the hand, as well as pain in the hand and wrist. Occasionally the pain can be traced to the patient’s forearm as well.
Warning Signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should consult with an orthopedic physician for a check-up to discuss what you’re feeling. While we can’t diagnose anyone over the internet, here are a few warning signs to look out for when keeping carpal tunnel syndrome at bay:
Female vs Male
Carpal tunnel is seen more than three times more in female patients than male patients, and it comes down to one very simple reason: the carpal tunnel itself is much smaller in women’s hands than in men’s, thereby making them more prone to developing it.
Which Hand Is Affected?
While either (or both) hands have the potential to be afflicted by carpal tunnel, typically the patient will report increased pain in the dominant hand over the non-dominant hand. If they have pain in both hands, oftentimes they will report having felt the initial pain in the dominant hand first.
The physical symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can range from mild to severe, so be sure to keep tabs on where you feel the discomfort and what it feels like to you.
For many, they will feel a tingling sensation in the area affected, while others will experience numbness or weakness. It may be difficult for people to strongly grasp items or to lift heavier objects.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, or think you’re experiencing a symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome, give Georgia Bone & Joint a call for assistance in diagnosis and next steps.
How is Carpal Tunnel Treated?
There are a variety of surgical and non-surgical treatment options available to address carpal tunnel syndrome. Every person is different, so it’s very important that you see an orthopedic physician who specializes in hands so they can make a personalized assessment of the cause and the best next steps for your particular case.
If your physician recommends a non-surgical route, you may:
Splint the afflicted hand for added support
Utilize anti-inflammatory medication (typically over the counter)
Try holistic remedies, such as yoga, acupuncture, and massage
However, if your case is deemed severe enough to warrant surgery, you may need to undergo a very safe procedure known as carpal tunnel release. This procedure does not require an overnight stay in a hospital and often provides immediate relief for the patient.
The orthopedic surgeon will cut a ligament in one (or both) hands to help lessen the pressure on the median nerve, permanently creating more space in the carpal tunnel without negatively affecting the dexterity and strength of the hands.