Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve entrapment disorder that results in the compression of the median nerve which winds its way in the wrist through a narrow passage called the carpal tunnel. This compression typically causes pain, numbness and tingling in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and thumb side of the ring finger, all which are the areas of skin innervated by the median nerve.
There is no known single factor of carpal tunnel syndrome. Genetics, age, and gender are often variables considered to increase the risk of it though and women are 3x more likely to develop carpal tunnel than men.
What are other risk factors?
People who operate machinery and office workers in positions such as data entry are among the most commonly known workers to develop problems such as carpal tunnel. The main issue that causes it is often repetitive strain on the hand or wrist with carpal tunnel being considered a form of RSI, or Repetitive Strain Injury.
Things such as constant hammering, vibrations from tools and long term use with extreme wrist motions are all likely factors to lead to carpal tunnel and other types of repetitive strain injuries. Still, even if you’re careful there are a variety of other factors that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome that we’ll include in a list below:
– Amyloid deposits
– Arthritic diseases
– Hereditary factors
– Rheumatoid arthritis
– Thyroid gland hormone imbalance
– Tumors in the carpal tunnel
– Wrist dislocation or fracture
– Wrist or hand deformity
These are only a few of the potential factors that can lead to carpal tunnel, but it’s uncommon for the issue to arise with only one factor causing it on its own. It may seem like something unavoidable for those who get it, but carpal tunnel syndrome should be taken seriously and caution should be taken if you believe you may be at risk to develop it.
What’s the treatment?
At first your doctor may recommend rest, anti-inflammatories, splinting and general activity modifications to keep you from irritating the hand in question, but when non-surgical treatments don’t help surgery may be required.
Orthapedic surgeons say if symptoms are ignored, carpal tunnel can lead to difficulties doing what were once routine tasks. Dr. Kakar’s advice for some patients is to wear a wrist brace at night to potentially ease symptoms. A steroid injection may be able to help, but usually it’s only temporarily. The next option is a short surgery to open the tunnel and relieve the pressure.
Going back to lighter non-surgical treatments, here are just a few examples of things you can do to help your hand:
– Use ergonomic equipment
– Apply cold packs
– Learn hand stretches
The risks of surgery
Although major problems can be caused by surgery for carpal tunnel, they are rare. About 1 in 100 people will have major issues such as nerve damage from carpal tunnel surgeries, but it’s also just about as rare that people are completely free of irritations after surgery.
At the very least though, the vast majority who have undergone surgery for carpal tunnel did show significant improvements with their ability to use their hand and would go on to experience less pain or general issues than before.
When other conditions such as hypothyroidism exist, carpal tunnel surgery may not do much. Treating these conditions first may be significantly more helpful than surgery, but that doesn’t mean surgery isn’t a good option either necessarily.
All possible factors need to be taken into consideration and it’s always a good idea to see what can be done without surgery first before going in for it. Always talk with your doctor to weigh out what solution would be best for your situation.