What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the three or four most common conditions our hand doctors in Nashville, TN treat.
One way to look at it is a pinched nerve in the wrist.
Carpal tunnel syndrome gets its name from the tunnel within your wrist. There are tendons that run through this tunnel, as well as the median nerve, which is the structure that gets pinched from this condition.
The median nerve controls the sensation in the thumb-side of your hand, but a lot of times people experience it throughout their entire hands.
Numbness throughout the hand is one symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome. That numbness can coincide with or without pain.
Dr. Thomas Dovan, one of the hand specialists at Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics, notes that he regularly receives feedback from patients that their hands and wrists have gone numb from typing or working.
Night symptoms are also a sign that you may be suffering from this condition. Our hand doctors describe instances where patients wake up, but their hands remain asleep.
Just like with the rest of our body, the carpal tunnel ligament is subject to aging and change. As we get older, the ligament may thicken and narrow the carpal tunnel. This results in pressure on the median nerve.
While computer usage and other activities may bring on symptoms, current data suggests that these activities are not the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Research does suggest that genetics may factor in developing this condiiton.
How Can I Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms?
You should try to keep your wrists in a neutral position for any prolonged activities where your wrist is flexed, bent, or extended. Even if you are not sleeping, these activities can increase the pressure on your median nerve.
Elite’s hand doctors also recommend taking frequent breaks during activities that require your hands and wrists.
3 Exercises to Relieve Carpal Tunnel Pain
1. Wrist Rotation
Start with your arm straight out and your forearm facing the ceiling. Move your hand to an upside down high five position. Take your other hand and bend your fingers back. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat on your other hand.
2. Wrist Extensor Stretch
Put both of your arm straight in front of you. Make a fist and bend your fist down. Hold this pose for 10-15 seconds.
3. Prayer Stretch
Start in a prayer position. Gradually move your hands down towards your stomach. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
When Should You Seek Treatment?
Dr. Samuel Crosby, another hand specialist at Elite, states two drivers typically drive people to an orthopedic surgeon:
- You cannot do the things you love
- Numbness or hand and wrist pain is interfering with your sleep
How Do Hand Specialists Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Dr. Dovan explains that he will begin by evaluating the patient’s medical history, specifically past treatment received for their hand or wrist pain.
Often, treatment begins with a wrist brace – called a carpal tunnel wrist splint – that patients are instructed to wear during sleep.
Why Do You Recommend a Wrist Brace at Night?
When you are sleeping, you tend to bend your wrist and increase pressure on your nerve. Dr. Dovan recommends wearing the wrist brace for a 2-4 weeks to see if this alleviates symptoms.
Where Can I Get a Wrist Brace?
While you can always see a hand doctor near you about receiving a wrist brace, you should able to find one at a local drug store or even online. Dr. Crosby recommends a brace that is both comfortable and keeps your wrist in a neutral position.
What Happens If Your Symptoms Persist?
While many patients experience relief with the wrist brace, sometimes carpal tunnel syndrome has developed to a point that requires further treatment. This results in two treatment paths, temporary relief and long term relief.
Temporary relief: Steroids can be injected into the carpal tunnel, right around the nerve, to decrease inflammation. How long that relief lasts changes from person to person. While it can help alleviate hand and wrist pain, it is not a permanent solution.
Permanent relief: Your hand doctor may recommend surgery to permanently treat your condition. According to Dr. Dovan, “The outcomes for carpal tunnel surgery are about as good as any surgical procedure we perform”.
Am I a Candidate for Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
You should speak with an orthopedic surgeon about surgical treatment when your hand and wrist pain is interfering with your everyday life, and conservative treatment methods are not working.
Unfortunately, it is possible for carpal tunnel syndrome to be significant enough that it reaches a point of no return. In that situation, your hand doctor may not recommend surgical intervention.
Request an Appointment with Our Orthopedic Specialists in Nashville, TN
At Elite Sports Medicine + Orthopedics, we have two of the best hand specialists in Nashville, TN. You can request an appointment by form submission or phone call.
If you are outside of Middle Tennessee, we recommend seeking treatment from a hand doctor near you before symptoms worsen.
Want to Read More about CTS and Other Hand Conditions?
Check out this all-encompassing guide with insight from our hand doctors.