Finding Relief in Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can sneak up on you. Often beginning as a tingling sensation in the wrist, hand, or forearm, it can progress to a feeling of burning, numbness, weakness, and pain that severely limits daily activities. Symptoms can come and go, but they often become worse over time. Severe cases can make some jobs or hobbies impossible. Early diagnosis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome treatments are key to a long term recovery. 

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The median nerve runs the length of the arm to control movement and feeling in the thumb and first three fingers of the hand. At the wrist, this nerve runs through an opening between bones and ligaments called the carpal tunnel. Swelling in the wrist or hand can narrow this carpal tunnel. That puts pressure on the median nerve, leading to the numbing, pain, and weakness of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

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Common contributing factors of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include:

  • Repetitive motions such as typing or assembly line work
  • Obesity, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma
  • Women are more susceptible to CTS than men

First, Address the Cause

When seeking Carpal Tunnel Syndrome treatments, it’s important to begin with a proper diagnosis from your doctor. You need to confirm that CTS really is the cause of your discomfort. Your doctor will examine your medical history and perform any number of simple tests to determine both the presence of CTS and possibly its cause in your particular case.

If the cause is found to be mechanical, such as a job involving endless repetitive movements, then the treatment may vary from someone whose CTS results largely from obesity or hypothyroidism.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatments

There are four main approaches for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome treatments. We list them below in general order of least to most invasive:

Immobilization — Sometimes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can result from awkward sleeping positions at night. A splint worn on the wrist during sleep or even during the day can relieve pressure on the median nerve.

Lifestyle change — Frequent breaks or time away from repetitive hand motions can be one of your best Carpal Tunnel Syndrome treatments. Let an occupational therapist help you with alternative strategies for completing your work. Also, your doctor or physical therapist can give you helpful stretching or strengthening exercises. Ergonomic changes involving your posture, how you sit, how hold your hands, the setup of your workstation, and the tools you use can also make a great difference.

Medication — Anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid shots might be used to reduce swelling. Other medications may be helpful for addressing other underlying causes.

Surgery — While surgery should generally be a last resort after all less invasive options have been tried, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome surgery has been shown to relieve symptoms. Usually performed under local or regional anesthesia, Carpal Tunnel Surgery involves severing a ligament to reduce pressure on the nerve. They ligaments are expected to grow back together, but with a larger carpal tunnel opening. The surgery usually provides immediate relief from CTS symptoms, but full recovery can take months, and most people will still need to modify their job duties.