What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Have you ever experienced discomfort in your wrists and hands? Generally, when patients run into issues with carpal tunnel syndrome, they complain of a numbness or tingling in the thumb, wrist or fingers on the effected hand.
Working in primary care for over 18 years, this was one of the most common concerns which a patient would come in to be seen for. Carpal tunnel is also much more common than you think - as a matter of fact 2-3 million people each year are seen for these symptoms. When you think about many people's current lifestyles and heavy emphasis on typing and like activities, these numbers make sense.
Are there different types of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
No. Carpal tunnel effects the median nerve as seen in the illustration below. An example of causes of carpal tunnel syndrome would be an individual which uses a computer mouse most days a week. There is pressure exerted to the median nerve in the wrist and hand which can cause symptoms of carpel tunnel. There could be other causes for tingling or pain of a wrist, hand or fingers which could be related to an injury or other musculoskeletal problem(s).
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The most common cause of carpal tunnel in either gender is related to “repeated motion.” This occurs over time when there is pressure that is exerted on the median nerve of the effected hand.
You may think of certain occupations that more likely facilitate carpal tunnel syndrome, like that of sewers and jobs that require constant typing or small hand motions. There are also natural reasons that could result in a higher likelihood of resulting in carpal tunnel, like arthritis or obesity. Another interesting aspect of carpal tunnel is that women are actually more likely than men to develop the syndrome.
How do you know if you have Carpel Tunnel Syndrome?
In order to have the most accurate diagnoses as well as treatment, you will need to see your health care provider for a diagnosis. Don’t be too worried about it being an inconvenient and timely approach to the matter. Many times, with a physical exam, and without a history of injury, the diagnosis is made without X-rays.
Is Carpal Tunnel Chronic?
The short answer is that it sure can be. Although carpal tunnel is brought on by outside trauma, many cannot avoid the overuse of the wrist and hand because of the type of work that they do. Therefore, after all other therapy has been exhausted, one may need to have surgery to correct the problem. This is determined by your provider.
What are the treatments for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome?
Although carpal tunnel syndrome by no means pleasant and can be awfully persistent, treatment is of course possible. For the most part, resting the wrist and hand from repetitive motion for a period (1-2 weeks) is helpful. Some providers will recommend the use of a wrist support during work or at night when sleeping. This helps decrease the swelling of the wrist and hand.
Of course, there is Tylenol or Ibuprofen that is also used as an oral adjunct to pain, as well as topical medications which is rubbed directly to the area of discomfort. And all these efforts may be used together to receive the most benefit.
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