If you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night with tingling or numbness in your hand, you know what it feels like to have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). This problem affects the wrists and hands, making even simple tasks hard to do. While tingling and numbness are the most common symptoms, some sufferers also have hand pain or even a weakened grip. The good news is CTS can be treated and controlled.
What is the carpal tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow space inside the wrist, surrounded by bones and ligaments, which allow tendons and major nerves pass from the forearm to the hand. The two biggest players of the carpal tunnel are the median nerve, which carries messages between the hand and brain and the transverse carpal ligament that lies across the arch of the carpal bones and forms the roof of the carpal tunnel.
In a healthy wrist, the median nerve has room to freely pass information between the hand and brain. In a wrist with CTS, the tendon sheath is thick and enlarged, reducing the amount of space inside the carpal tunnel, compressing the nerve which leads to tingling and numbness.
Will Carpal Tunnel Syndrome go away?
If your doctor confirms you have CTS, either through examinations or tests, it is unlikely it will go away on its own. Your symptoms may come and go, but without treatment, CTS can worsen. There are several early treatment options:
- Taking Medication: Your doctor may prescribe aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling. There are also stronger prescription medications available.
- Cortisone Injection: A cortisone injection can greatly reduce inflammation, giving relief for many weeks.
- Wearing a Splint: Wearing a wrist splint at night or during the day can also reduce symptoms. The splint keeps the wrist in a neutral position, preventing movement that could narrow the carpal tunnel.
What about carpal tunnel surgery?
If CTS symptoms are severe, surgery is an option. There are two types of CTS surgery, open and endoscopic. Open requires an incision in the palm to release the transverse carpal ligament. Endoscopic uses one to two small incisions and a scope is inserted under the transverse carpal ligament. No matter which option, the goal of the procedure is to relieve pressure on the median nerve.
There are some risks, although rare, including damage to the nerves or blood vessels, unrelieved symptoms, and infection. The surgery lasts about an hour and you can usually go home after a couple hours of rest. Follow your doctor’s instructions to help recover fully.
You don’t have to live with the pain of CTS. You have an expert right here in Sioux City who has dedicated more than 25 years to orthopaedic surgery. Call and set up and appointment with Dr. Samuelson to discuss your options for living a pain-free life.