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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is pressure in the carpal tunnel, the place where the median nerve — the large nerve in the arm — goes to the hand at the wrist. This nerve is responsible for supplying feeling and movement to the palm side of the hand by the thumb.

Common symptoms

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome often occur at night and worsen over time. Symptoms typically are more pronounced or show up first in the dominant hand. They include:

  • The inability to grip objects; frequently dropping objects
  • Itching, burning, tingling or weakness in the hand
  • Feeling of swelling in the hand or fingers, although no swelling is visible

How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?

A physical examination of the hands, arms, shoulders and neck is performed to determine if symptoms are related to daily activities or an underlying disorder. Physicians may perform specific tests to produce symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. It may also be necessary to confirm diagnosis through:

How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?

There are multiple treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome. Basic treatment includes wearing a splint on the wrist (or wrists), using hot and cold compresses to reduce inflammation, stretching the affected area, and resting the wrists to reduce stress on the area at work or during other activities for at least two weeks.

Medications like pain relievers, diuretics, steroid injections and other anti-inflammatory drugs may also be prescribed. Once swelling and inflammation have been relieved, stretching and strengthening exercises are usually recommended and are typically directed by a physical or occupational therapist.

Carpal tunnel release surgery is considered when other treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are not effective. Both open release surgery and the less invasive endoscopic surgical procedures enlarge the carpal tunnel by cutting the carpal ligament. While surgery may relieve symptoms almost immediately, healing and recovery after surgery can take several months. Most patients recover completely following treatment, and recurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome is rare. Your healthcare team can help you evaluate your condition and understand which course of treatment is best for you.

The surgeons at REX Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists can help you decide on the treatment that is best for you. They are trained in the latest treatments and techniques and are experienced in diagnosing and treating brain, spine and peripheral nerve disorders and disease. To make an appointment at REX Neurosurgery & Spine Specialists, call 919-784-1410.