The carpal tunnel of the body is located between the base of the hand and the wrist, and houses the median nerve of the body. The tunnel is comprised of ligament and bone and when damaged or inflamed, it can put excess pressure on the median nerve, leading to complications in the hand. Compression of the median nerve can result in numbness or tingling of the hand and fingers, drastically impacting the functional ability of the patient’s hand.
Any patient who has suffered from a sudden numbing feeling in the palm or an itchy feeling between the palm and wrist may be experiencing some extent of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Any repetitive activity that strains the carpal muscles or places constant pressure on the tunnel itself can lead to the development of CTS. CTS in the cumulative effect of many other contributing factors affecting the wrist. It is possible to be susceptible to this condition from birth due to congenital narrowing of the carpal tunnel. It can result from direct damage to the wrist through injury or it can be an after-effect of hormonal imbalances in the body such as arthritic inflammation.
The symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The symptoms of CTS develop gradually that many patients ignore the early signs of and even consider them as minor annoyances. It is really only in the later stages, when the condition has become debilitating, that patients seek treatment.
The most common symptom is numbness in the palm that may spread to the fingers (primarily in the middle, index fingers and the thumb), leading to a loss of dexterity. There may also be an itchy feeling that occurs between the palm and wrist.
Other common CTS symptoms include swelling of the wrist, warmth or tenderness to the touch at the location of the median joint, and a gradual loss of hand strength as the muscles atrophy. It is common for patients to feel symptoms in their dominant hand first due the greater amount of use it receives.
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome diagnosed?
Since CTS is a gradual degradation, the earlier it can be diagnosed and treated, the better. The first step taken by the San Antonio pain physician is to rule out any other possible conditions of the hand, wrist, and arm that may produce the same symptoms the patient is experiencing.
Following this, the wrist itself will be evaluated for swelling, warmth, discoloration, and tenderness to the touch. If a patient is experiencing a loss in function of the hand, tests to determine the strength of the fingers will be administered in order to examine for muscular atrophy. There are also specific CTS tests that can be used to mirror the stimuli of CTS to see if the patient responds.
Treatment options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Treatment will vary based on the extent of CTS present. The first step in treatment is to prescribe medication (pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs) to provide symptomatic relief. Once the pain has subsided within the wrist, patients will be placed in physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and to help the patient develop methods of using the wrist that will not trigger symptomatic responses.
Additional treatment options include carpal tunnel bracing along with steroid injections into the tunnel to decrease inflammation and reduce pain.
For those patients who have later stages of CTS, surgery is an option. Surgical correction of CTS is one of the most common surgeries in the country.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and would like more information, contact Texas Pain Network today for Top San Antonio pain management. The practice has a Double Board Certified pain management doctor accepting over 50 insurance plans at multiple locations.
Call (210) 202-4030 for more information and scheduling!