What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder of the wrist and hand, caused by pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel in your hand. The trusted experience and surgical expertise of the neurosurgeons at The Johns Hopkins Peripheral Nerve Surgery Center make us the best choice for treatment of this condition.
Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition of nerve entrapment. It is caused when the tunnel surrounding the tissues inside the bones of your wrist narrows, inflaming the tissues and your median nerve. A mass may occupy the canal compressing the nerve.
The median nerve gives feeling to your thumb, and index, middle and ring fingers. When tissues in the carpal tunnel, such as ligaments and tendons, get swollen or inflamed, they press against the median nerve. That pressure results in the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
People engaged in repetitive motions throughout their day may suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. Examples of those commonly diagnosed with carpal tunnel include:
- People who use computers for many hours throughout the day
- Check-out line technicians
- Assembly-line workers
- Auto mechanics
Hobbies such as gardening, needlework, golfing and boating/rowing can sometimes contribute toward the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. It is critical to have an excellent and experienced physician evaluate you for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may include:
- Numbness or “pins and needles” feeling in the fingers
- Pain and/or numbness that is worse at night or interrupts sleep
- Burning or tingling in your thumb, index, and middle fingers, or pain that moves up your arm to your elbow
- Hand weakness
- Difficulty gripping objects with the hands or dropping objects
- Difficulty manipulating small objects
- Difficulty making a fist
- Swollen feeling in the fingers
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
Diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome
Proper diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome requires the expert attention of experienced neurologists and surgical specialists. Diagnosis will include:
- Complete medical history
- A comprehensive clinical exam. Your doctor will ask you to perform certain tasks with your hands so he/she can determine if carpal tunnel syndrome is a possible diagnosis for your pain.
- Electrodiagnostic studies (EMG and nerve conduction) to confirm the diagnosis. within your hands and wrists
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome
Depending on the severity of carpal tunnel syndrome, your physician may recommend the following:
- Occupational therapy to loosen the tendons in the hands and wrists
- The daily use of nonsteroidal-anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other nonprescription pain relievers to help reduce pain and inflammation
- Wearing splints to help immobilize the wrist
- Resting the hands and wrist for longer periods throughout the day
Your doctor may recommend surgery to treat your carpal tunnel syndrome.
Dr Allan Belzberg is a world-renowned neurosurgeon in the treatment of peripheral nerve injuries. He treats on average 500 nerve injuries every year and has published research publications focusing on improving surgical repairs of nerve injuries and discovering new treatment options. Catch up on the latest research on nerve injuries.