Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause major discomfort, here BMI Healthcare discuss the number of ways you can deal with the condition.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition, which can lead to pain in the hands and fingers. There are several causes of CTS, and the severity of the symptoms varies from person to person. In some cases, CTS will disappear by itself without requiring treatment. However, where the condition endures there are several options available to relieve discomfort.
What is CTS?
CTS is caused by an increase in pressure on the median nerve, the nerve which crosses the front of the wrist and controls movement and sensation in the hands. It is surrounded by the carpal tunnel – a tight passage that creates a pulley for the tendons, which allow your fingers to bend. The pressure caused by CTS can result in numbness, tingling and pain, particularly in the thumb, index and middle fingers. It can also bring about pins and needles, and sufferers often experience a dull ache in the hand and arm, as well as weakness in the thumb.
What causes CTS?
There are a number of reasons why people develop CTS. It is most commonly a result of repetitive movements, such as typing on a computer for long periods or playing a sport that requires using the wrist and hand. Wrist injuries and health issues such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can also lead to CTS.
Non-surgical treatment of CTS
If you are experiencing mild or moderate symptoms of CTS, then there are a number of non-surgical ways to alleviate the condition. Sometimes, simply resting the affected hand or wrist for one or two weeks will allow the area to heal. Your health professional may also recommend a wrist support to hold your wrist in a neutral position and encourage recovery. Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen is often used to reduce swelling and discomfort, while in some cases corticosteroid injections are administered to provide temporary pain relief – although the symptoms often return.
There are also a number of physical exercises that your doctor can recommend to help strengthen your wrists and make them suppler. Some sufferers of CTS have found that practising yoga can further improve the condition.
If CTS is being caused by repetitive movements at work, such as typing, make sure to take regular breaks from your computer and keep stretching and exercising your wrist to prevent pain and stiffness.
Surgical treatment of CTS
Where non-surgical management of CTS doesn’t alleviate the symptoms or there is the possibility of nerve damage occurring, surgery may be the best option. A small incision will be made on the hand – usually under local anaesthetic – and the surgeon will cut the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel in order to relieve pressure on the median nerve. The whole procedure usually takes around 15 minutes and you can normally leave the hospital on the same day.
People suffering from mild forms of CTS should notice an improvement immediately following surgery, but those with more extreme cases or nerve damage may require more time for symptoms to be relieved. Your doctor will also advise you on physical hand and wrist exercises to aid your recovery.