Does your wrist hurt? Maybe your fingers have been tingling or feeling a little bit numb. You may have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. That’s when the median nerve in your wrist gets pinched. Typically the onset is caused by cumulative or repetitive activities. The three fingers where you feel the numbness are the third, fourth and fifth digits. It occurs with patients that have repetitive type injuries with computer keyboards or guitars – jobs or actions where they are using their hands over and over again. Over time that nerve gets irritated just like a nerve in your back gets irritated like your sciatic nerve. And once its gets irritated it can produce numbness, tingles and pain down into your fingers.
There are all kinds of different treatment methods. A conservative treatment is the first thing that we would recommend. Orthopedic test are conducted for a diagnosis. Other studies just like EMGs or NCVs, those are types of nerve conduction velocity tests. A big fancy word but it lets us know if there are some entrapments in the wrist. Sometimes the problem can be up in the elbow or even the neck. So we want to rule a few problems out and make sure it in the wrist itself. And once we’ve properly diagnosed it. We can move forward with some different treatment options.
The syndrome is not due to a traumatic or acute event such as a sports injury. Conservative treatment may include physical therapy and some type of splinting. Many patients complain of the pain being worse in the morning. What happens while you sleep is that you may actually flex or bend your wrist a little bit and that will contribute or exacerbate the problem. Using an over the counter splint will help with this. Other therapies may include ultrasound or using anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy from someone who specializes in hands and wrist type injuries obviously would be very good as well.
In very, very extreme situations, surgical intervention may be required but the process is a simple and common one. A surgeon will go in and “release” the nerve to reduce the pressure and irritation. The side effects are limited and patients typically recover quickly.
If you think you may have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome you can make it worse by doing more. If you are sensing weakness and dropping objects…that is a red flag and you want to see a medical provider as soon as possible. In extreme cases where the nerve is irrupted or impinged, you might have symptoms throughout the day. In other cases say with the guitar player or a receptionist, someone that is using that hand, that frequent or repetitive activity might contribute to it as well.
To help prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, remember to stretch the wrist back into extension. Different types of hand exercises should help as well. Once you start to observe the symptoms get into to see someone and they can get you a little home program of exercising and stretching and other things to do. Ice is also a decent option as well. Cold laser therapy here in the clinic has been shown to be effective for carpal tunnel syndrome as well.
If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms described, why not have it checked out? Contact Dr. Riley and his team Tulsa Spine and rehab at (918) 743-3737.