Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - How to Know if You May Need Surgery

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Most people who use their hands regularly, especially those who do repetitive movements like typing, experience pain and discomfort caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which there is pressure on the median nerve, the nerve in the wrist that supplies feeling and movement to parts of the hand. It can lead to numbness, tingling, weakness, or muscle damage in the hand and fingers.

The median nerve provides feeling and movement to the “thumb side” of the hand (the palm, thumb, index finger, middle finger, and thumb side of the ring finger). The area in your wrist where the nerve enters the hand is called the carpal tunnel. This tunnel is normally narrow, so any swelling can pinch the nerve and that is what will cause the telltale tingling and numbness.

Other activities that can cause carpal tunnel include:

  • Painting
  • Playing some musical instruments
  • Playing sports such as racquetball or handball
  • Sewing
  • Using tools (especially hand tools or tools that vibrate)
  • Working on an assembly line
  • Writing

To correctly diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor will conduct a physical exam to examine your hands and look for numbness in your palm, thumb or index finger.  He will also check to see if you have a weakened hand grip or if you experience pain when he taps on the median nerve.

Treatment might be as simple as wearing a splint at night for several weeks. Be sure to avoid sleeping on your wrists.  You can also make adjustments to avoid the activity that is causing carpal tunnel syndrome to begin with.  Try switching out your keyboard or mouse if you use those regularly. Rest your hands periodically when doing manual labor.

If those basic changes don’t decrease your pain, surgery may be an option. Carpal tunnel release is a surgical procedure that cuts into the ligament that is pressing on the nerve. Surgery is successful most of the time, but it depends on how long the nerve compression has been occurring and its severity.

Don’t let carpal tunnel syndrome prevent you from doing activities that you love! If you feel that you are suffering from carpal tunnel, please call our office to schedule an appointment to see Dr. Fayaz.

Hand, Joint Disorders, Painadmin