3 million Americans are diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome each year making it a very common medical condition. It all begins with the notorious tingling sensation in the hand. Therefore, seeking medical advice from an orthopedic specialist sooner rather than later is crucial.
Carpal Tunnel Basics. The carpal tunnel is located on the palm side of the hand and provides passage for the median nerve. The median nerve travels down the arm and into the hand and controls the feeling and movement of the thumb and fingers. Along with the median nerve, nine flexor tendons run through the carpal tunnel to assist the fingers in bending.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? For the flexor tendons to move freely, the carpal tunnel surrounds them in a sleeve to act as a lubricant to the tissues. When the sleeve swells within the carpal tunnel, it puts pressure on the median nerve. The result of this pressure is why people with carpal tunnel syndrome experience numbness and tingling in the beginning phases.
- Tingling and numbness throughout the finger and hand are the strongest indicators of carpal tunnel syndrome. The pinky finger is not affected since the median nerve does not run through that finger. Usually, the thumb and index, middle or ring finger are symptomatic. The symptoms do not resolve themselves on their own. Without intervention, this numbness can travel up the arm and cause discomfort while driving or using your phone.
- Muscle weakness is another sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people start to notice themselves dropping things because of the weakness in their hand and fingers. All of this goes back to the median nerve being disturbed within the carpal tunnel which ultimately affects the mobility of the fingers.
Solutions. Implementing an ergonomic workstation is the best strategy to prevent carpal tunnel. There are also ways to reduce stress on your hands and wrists. Surgery may be appropriate if your pain is severe and conservative methods aren’t working.
- Reduce your force and relax your grip
- Take short, frequent breaks
- Wrist splints
- Endoscopic surgery: the surgeon uses a telescope-like device with a camera that allows them to see inside the carpal tunnel. They are then able to cut the ligament through small incisions in the hand or wrist.
- Open surgery: The surgeon cuts the ligament to free the nerve through an incision in the palm.
If your hands, wrists or fingers are bothering you, Dr. Stephen J. Ros at Northern Arizona Orthopaedics is dedicated to finding the right solution for you. Please call 928.226.2900 or schedule an appointment online today!