If you have ever felt tingling, pain, or numbness in your hand and wrist, you are certainly not alone. Carpal tunnel syndrome is undoubtedly one of the most common hand conditions of the 21st century, with more than 8 million cases reported worldwide each year and this number rising steadily. Many experts suggest that this increase is due to the additional amount of stress placed on our wrists and hands as a result of excessive smartphone and computer usage.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can range from mild to extremely debilitating. However, surgical intervention can alleviate any discomfort and restore mobility and function to the hand once more. For over twenty years, Dr. Keith Raskin at The Raskin Center for Hand, Wrist & Elbow Surgery in Manhattan, NY has successfully helped diagnose and treat patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and What Causes It?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition affecting the fingers, hands, and wrists. It occurs when the median nerve that transmits messages between the nervous system and the hands becomes compressed within the sheath that covers it – the carpal tunnel. This compression interrupts the signals sent between the brain to this part of the body, causing the sufferer to experience the painful symptoms that characterize carpal tunnel syndrome.
Although it is not known exactly why some people develop carpal tunnel syndrome and some do not, there are certain groups of individuals who are considered to be at greater risk. This includes:
- People over the age of 40.
- Women, as their build generally means that they naturally have smaller carpal tunnels and the median nerve is more likely to become compressed.
- People who have previously suffered a trauma or injury to the hand or wrist.
- Individuals who have a job or hobby that puts them at increased risk of developing repetitive strain injury (RSI). This could include people who spend a great deal of time at a laptop computer, using handheld tools, or playing a sport such as tennis or golf.
- Sufferers of certain chronic health conditions, like diabetes or an under active thyroid.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can vary between patients, and largely depend on the severity of the condition. However, most patients share the most common characteristics of carpal tunnel, which include:
- Mild, moderate, or intense pain in the fingers, hand, wrist, or forearm, or in some rare cases, as far up the arm as the shoulder. The discomfort may appear to be isolated in one area, or across various parts of the limb at the same time.
- Unusual sensations in the fingers, hand, or wrist. Commonly reported sensations include numbness, tingling, prickling, or feelings of heat or cold.
- Lack of strength in the affected limb. This could include weakness in your grip, in the movement or support provided by your wrist, or an inability to grip effectively.
Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The treatment that Dr. Raskin recommends for carpal tunnel syndrome will depend primarily on the severity of your condition, and the degree to which it is impacting on your day to day life.
In some instances, carpal tunnel syndrome may improve on its own accord. However, in many cases, we might suggest that you try a variety of different therapies and tactics to improve the symptoms associated with your condition or surgery.
Adjustments and Modifications for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
One of the simplest things that you can do to improve your condition, or even to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from occurring, is to look into what adjustments and modifications can be made to your work or recreational routines. This could include using specialist tools such as wrist supports or desk extensions, or taking regular rest breaks from an activity that places strain on your wrist joints. Many patients also find that they can reduce the severity of carpal tunnel syndrome by ensuring that their hands stay warm, so a decent pair of gloves could prove to be a wise investment.
Non-surgical Carpal Tunnel Treatments
There are a variety of non-surgical treatment options available to patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. These include supports such as wrist splints, the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications, and even corticosteroid injections. However, if these prove to be unsuccessful, or do not provide enough relief for the patient, surgical intervention may be necessary.
Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery
Carpal tunnel release surgery is normally performed as an outpatient service, meaning that you will be able to return home the same day as your procedure. In this surgery, the roof of the carpal tunnel is cut to reduce pressure on the median nerve. Carpal tunnel release surgery can now be performed laparoscopically, meaning that we can release the nerve without the need for an extended incision into the patient’s arm. Patients who opt for this type of minimally-invasive surgery often report that they heal much faster, have less scarring, and can return to their usual activities sooner.
In most cases, carpal tunnel release surgery can successfully provide a permanent cure for the condition, but this does not automatically make it the best choice for all patients. If you would like to find out more about carpal tunnel syndrome and how it can be treated, call The Raskin Center for Hand, Wrist & Elbow Surgery today at 212-889-8600.