If you’ve been feeling discomfort in your wrists, you may wonder if you have carpal tunnel syndrome (commonly referred to simply as “carpal tunnel”). After all, it’s one of the most common ailments affecting people who make constant, repetitive motions with their hands; and many jobs and hobbies that fall into that category.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
To understand carpal tunnel, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of anatomy. On the side of your neck, by the spinal cord, there’s a cluster of nerves called the brachial plexus. These nerves go through your shoulder and travel down the arms. They control the muscles along your shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, and hands.
One of these nerves is called the median nerve, which spans the entire arm’s length. It’s located on the medial side of the upper extremities (the inside of your arms). And it provides sensation to most of your fingers.
When you repeatedly do the same hand and wrist movements, the inside of your wrists may swell, causing the median nerve to compress. As a result, you may feel weakness, tingling, or numbness in your hand; mostly around your thumb area. This is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Causes
One of the most common causes of carpal tunnel is the repetitive motion of the wrists and hands. However, several underlying medical reasons may also result in the condition. Some of them include the following:
It’s also common for pregnant or menopausal women to experience carpal tunnel more frequently due to the additional fluid retention. The condition is more likely to appear in multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.) or if the woman is overweight.
Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Women are more likely to experience carpal tunnel syndrome than men. Several lifestyle factors may increase the risk of experiencing it. These include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Being overweight or obese
- Working in an industry that requires repetitive hand movements, such as typing, computer use, assembly line work, construction, gardening, or hair styling.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
When the median nerve is compressed, the patient will experience tingling in all fingers, except the pinkie. The symptom is more acute around the thumb and is aggravated by holding or grasping an item.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosis and Treatment
Once you seek medical treatment, a doctor will visually examine your wrists for any signs of swelling, tenderness, or atrophy around your fingers. Your physician may also tap or apply pressure on the median nerve to verify whether your symptoms worsen.
If symptoms don’t improve within a couple of days, or if they interfere with your everyday activities (such as driving, carrying groceries, or performing your job duties) it’s crucial to obtain medical attention. Not doing so could result in permanent nerve damage.
Can carpal tunnel syndrome go away on its own?
While it is possible for the symptoms to go away on their own, if they haven’t improved within a week or two, we recommend seeking medical attention as soon as possible. Ignoring it won’t make it go away and could result in permanent damage not only to your median nerve, but also to the muscles around your wrist, and your ability to coordinate finger movements.
You could try carpal tunnel stretching exercises at the first sign of symptoms. If symptoms persist or if they get worse, you may be a candidate for carpal tunnel surgery to release pressure on the median nerve. However, this is considered a last resort.
How long does it take to recover from carpal tunnel surgery?
After carpal tunnel release surgery, your wrist will be immobilized in a splint for about two weeks. You’ll also likely take anti-inflammatory medication to relieve post-surgical pain and swelling. In addition, your doctor may recommend hand exercises to prevent stiffness.
Request an Appointment at The Orthopedic Clinic Today
At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms related to carpal tunnel syndrome, let us help you. We’ll tailor a treatment plan that’s best for your lifestyle and get you back to doing the things you love.
Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.