Sharp, piercing pain that shoots through your wrist and up your arm while using your hands may be a symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome – a progressive and painful condition caused by the compression of a key nerve in your wrist. Women are three times more likely than men to develop it. This may be because the carpal tunnel is smaller in women than in men. The dominant hand is usually the first affected and produces the most severe pain.
What are the symptoms?
Carpal tunnel symptoms begin gradually, with frequent burning, tingling, or numbness in the palm of the hand, thumb, index and middle fingers. The symptoms often first appear during the night. As symptoms worsen, some people feel tingling during the day. Decreased grip strength may make it difficult to form a fist, grasp small objects, or perform other manual tasks. In chronic or untreated cases, the muscles at the base of the thumb may waste away and some people are unable to tell between hot and cold temperatures.
What are the solutions?
- Initial treatment involves resting the affected hand and wrist for at least two weeks, avoiding activities that may worsen symptoms, and immobilizing the wrist in a splint to avoid further damage. If there is inflammation, applying cool packs can help reduce swelling.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-prescription pain relievers, may ease symptoms that have been present for a short time. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, or the drug lidocaine can be injected into the wrist or taken by mouth to relieve pressure on the median nerve and provide immediate, temporary relief for mild symptoms. Some studies show that vitamin B6 supplements may ease symptoms.
- Stretching and strengthening exercises can be helpful; acupuncture and chiropractic care may be of benefit. Yoga has been shown to reduce pain and improve grip strength.
- Carpal tunnel release surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States and is recommended if symptoms last for six months or more. It involves severing the band of tissue around the wrist to reduce pressure on the median nerve.
- Endoscopic surgery may allow faster functional recovery and less postoperative discomfort than traditional open release surgery.
- Full recovery from carpal tunnel surgery can take months. Recurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome following surgery is rare; the majority of patients recover completely.
Call to schedule a consultation appointment to discuss your carpal tunnel symptoms and solutions: St. John (219) 365-0220; Crown Point (219) 661-8661; Lowell (219) 696-6353.