Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common cause of numbness and tingling in the upper extremity. It is the constellation of signs and symptoms that result from compression of the median nerve at the wrist.
Symptoms usually include numbness and/or tingling in the hand. These symptoms can affect the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.
Understanding the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome most commonly develops over time with no single identifiable cause.
In some cases, medical conditions play a role in the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Hypothyroidism, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and pregnancy all have an association with the condition.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are similar to those experienced when sitting for a long period of time, such as the sensation of “pins and needles” in the leg or foot.
Oftentimes these symptoms first occur intermittently at nighttime and affect the quality of sleep.
What Happens If Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Is Not Treated?
If untreated, the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can worsen over time. As carpal tunnel syndrome progresses in severity, individuals tend to have more significant symptoms that can become constant. As numbness worsens, it can be difficult to perform fine tasks such as buttoning one’s shirt. In severe cases, some of the hand muscles in the palm will shrink causing weakness in grip and pinch, and this is usually permanent.
Treatment is more successful if it is initiated before the condition is severe with associated permanent nerve damage.
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you or a loved one is currently living with carpal tunnel syndrome, a board certified orthopedic like myself can help. In many cases, a trial of nonoperative care is recommended and initiated by a hand surgeon first. If these measures fail to relieve the symptoms, then surgery may be offered. A surgeon such as myself, may perform mini open carpal tunnel release and endoscopic carpal tunnel release.
Mini Open Carpal Tunnel Release
This is a technique where a small incision is made in the palm to divide the ligament overlying the carpal tunnel to relieve the pressure on the median nerve. It is done as an outpatient surgery, typically under local anesthesia with twilight sedation. Patients will usually return to light use of the hand within a couple days. Symptoms often are relieved rapidly, but this depends on the individual.
Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release
This is a minimally invasive technique that has been around for over 25 years. It is also an outpatient surgery that is typically done under local anesthesia with twilight sedation. The surgeon makes a very small incision at the wrist crease. A small instrument with a camera is inserted into the carpal tunnel to allow for careful division of the ligament overlying the carpal tunnel to relieve the pressure on the median nerve. We find this technique allows for a fast recovery and is usually minimally painful. Return to work and leisurely activities tends to be rapid.
See Below For an Article on Open Versus Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release!