Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition affecting the hands and wrists. It can make simple daily tasks like typing, gardening, or working with your hands unpleasant and uncomfortable. Left untreated, the condition can worsen and lead to permanent nerve and muscle damage.
If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, contact us today online or at 440-446-8600 to discuss your treatment options with experienced hand surgeon Dr. Joseph Khouri. We serve Cleveland and nearby areas in Ohio.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal ligament across the front of the wrist and the carpal bones at the bottom of the wrist form an opening called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve, one of the hand’s main nerves that controls movement of the thumb and most fingers, passes through the carpal tunnel space.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel. It is a common, progressive, and painful condition.
Anything that pinches or irritates the median nerve in the carpal tunnel may cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Many times, rather than resulting from a single cause, carpal tunnel syndrome develops from a combination of factors, such as:
- Family history of carpal tunnel syndrome
- Wrist conditions or injuries such as sprains, strains, dislocations, or fractures
- Small, repetitive, frequent hand movements, such as typing
- Changes in blood sugar levels (may develop with type 2 diabetes)
- Metabolic or hormonal changes, such as thyroid imbalance, pregnancy, or menopause
- Bone or joint disease, such as arthritis, osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis
- Frequent, repetitive, grasping hand movements, often linked with certain sports and other activities
- Frequent, repetitive, small hand movements, such as typing
Signs and Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome typically progress gradually over a period of weeks, months, or even years. The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Weakened grip when grasping objects with one or both hands
- Numbness or pain in one or both hands
- Swollen sensation in the fingers
- Tingling sensation in the fingers
- Increased numbness or pain at night, disturbing sleep
What Causes Carpal Tunnel to Flare Up?
Carpal tunnel pain results from excess pressure on the median nerve and in the wrist. Inflammation caused by obstructed blood flow or other underlying medical condition often creates swelling in the wrist, causing pain and discomfort.
Performing the same hand movements over and over again can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Those at risk include mechanics, musicians, assembly-line workers, construction workers, computer users, and many more. Activities such as needlework, gardening, golfing, and others can sometimes trigger symptoms. Women are also more likely to experience carpel tunnel syndrome than men.
Carpal Tunnel Treatment
There are a variety of surgical and non-surgical treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome, such as:
- Hand splint: Not only will a hand splint help to keep your wrist from moving, but it also eases nerve compression within the carpal tunnel.
- Medication: Anti-inflammatory medicine can be injected or taken orally to reduce swelling.
- Surgery: During the procedure, Dr. Khouri will surgically ease compression on the nerves in the carpal tunnel.
- Exercise: Strengthening and stretching exercises can help to further improvement for patients whose symptoms have gotten better. An occupational therapist or physical therapist can supervise these exercises.
- Ergonomic adjustments: Changes to your computer keyboard’s position and other ergonomic adjustments can help to ease symptoms.
If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, Dr. Khouri can help. In some cases, non-surgical care may be initially recommended. If non-surgical measures fail to provide adequate results, surgery may be an appropriate option.
During your consultation, Dr. Khouri will evaluate your condition, review your medical history and recommend the treatment that is best suited for your unique situation.
What Will Happen If Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Is Not Treated?
Left untreated, the symptoms of carpel tunnel syndrome will continue to worsen over time. Symptoms will become more severe and can become constant. Increased numbness can inhibit you from performing daily tasks such as buttoning your shirt, and even prevent you from fulfilling your job duties. In the most serious cases, permanent nerve and muscle damage can occur without treatment.
Can Carpal Tunnel Go Away On Its Own?
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is a progressive condition. If the root causes of your condition are not addressed and no steps are taken to ease the compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel space, it is unlikely that symptoms will simply go away on their own.
Preparing for Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Prior to your surgery, Dr. Khouri will provide you with detailed instructions on how to prepare for your procedure. It will be crucial to follow these preoperative instructions closely.
Generally speaking, before surgery, you should:
- Quit Smoking: If you smoke, quit about two weeks before and two weeks after. Smoking affects blood flow, which complicates both surgery and recovery.
- Discuss medications: Let Dr. Khouri know of all medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), vitamins, and dietary supplements you’re currently taking. Some of these may affect the way your blood clots, so you may need to take alternatives or temporarily discontinue these in the time surrounding your procedure.
- Fast before surgery: You’ll be asked to fast for about 6 to 12 hours prior to surgery.
Recovery After Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Carpal tunnel release is an outpatient procedure, so you’ll need to arrange a ride home after surgery. Dr. Khouri will discuss your oral medication options to help manage discomfort.
You may need to wear a splint for up to two weeks following your procedure. You may also need to arrange time off from work and seek help with certain aspects of your daily activities, such as child care or meal preparation.
Dr. Khouri will give you very specific post-operative instructions. It will be important to adhere to his instructions in order to ensure a quick and effective recovery.