Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome usually affects both hands, with the dominant hand affected first and becoming more painful. Women develop carpal tunnel syndrome at three times the rate of men and the condition appears more often in older people.

If you experience pain in the hands and suspect carpal tunnel syndrome, see a Tampa Bay spinal doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment can make a big difference in your prognosis.

The Carpal Tunnel

The carpal tunnel is located in the wrist, a 1-inch wide passageway. The bottom and side of the carpal tunnel consist of the wrist’s carpal bones. The transverse carpal ligament forms the top of the tunnel.

The median nerve makes up one of the hand’s primary nerves. It heads down the forearm into the carpal tunnel and then into the hand, controlling feeling for all fingers but the pinky.

The fingers’ nine flexor tendons also pass through the carpal tunnel. Should the carpal tunnel swell or narrow, it puts pressure on the median nerve. That starts the pain and weakness leading to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Potential Causes

While repetitive motion is the best-known cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, it is far from the only culprit. Other causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Genetics – there is a hereditary component to some cases of carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Pregnancy – hormonal changes can result in carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Wrist fracture
  • Tumor in the carpal tunnel

Patients with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis are at higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. An individual should contact a spinal cord doctor in Tampa Bay to understand more about their potential illness.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms appear gradually, starting with itching, tingling palms. Patients report a swelling feeling in the hands, although actual swelling does not occur. These symptoms are often worse at night, when the person is not performing any repetitive motions.

The National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Strokes states that patients with carpal tunnel syndrome may wake up feeling the need to “shake out” the hand. As the condition progresses, patients lose their grip. In a worst case scenario, the thumb muscles atrophy.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Along with taking a medical history, the doctor performs a series of tests on the wrist, such as flexion tests. Other diagnostic tests include X-rays and electromyography (EMG).

Part of carpal tunnel syndrome treatment is avoiding the triggers causing the condition. If that is not possible because of work, the patient should take frequent breaks during the day and allow the hands to rest.  The doctor may recommend splinting the hands at night.

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as naproxen or ibuprofen may offer pain relief. If NSAIDs are not sufficient, the doctor may inject corticosteroids into the wrist for median nerve pressure relief.

Many patients will require surgery to ease carpal tunnel syndrome. This surgery is performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthetic. If an individual is considering this route, they should not hesitate before contacting a Tampa Bay spinal cord doctor.

The surgery increases the size of the carpal tunnel, relieving pressure on the tendons and nerves passing through it. For the next four to six weeks, patients must restrict lifting and other heavier activities with the affected hand.

Physical therapy exercises are prescribed. The majority of patients experience complete relief. Rarely, carpal tunnel syndrome returns post-surgery.

Contact a Doctor

If you suspect you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, contact a Tampa Bay spinal doctor today to make an appointment for an examination.