Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common problem that affects millions of people in America. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a hand function problem that is caused by compression of the median nerve at the wrist. It occurs most often when the median nerve in the wrist becomes inflamed after being aggravated by repetitive movements, such as typing on a computer keyboard, talking on the phone (holding phone to the ear), texting, or playing the piano. It also impacts professional artists (sculptors, violinists, pianists) or any job requiring long-term repetitive motion of the wrist (jackhammer use, certain types of factory work). The “carpal tunnel” consists of the bones, tendons, and ligaments that surround the median nerve. Due to the fact that the median nerve applies sensation to the thumb, index, middle finger, and part of the ring finger (digits one through four), and also provides motion to the muscles of the thumb and hand, CTS sufferers notice numbness, pain, and weakness in these areas.
Common symptoms of CTS include:
● Hand and wrist pain
● A burning sensation in between the middle and index fingers
● Thumb and finger numbness
● An electric-like shock through the wrist and hand
Such symptoms often worsen when the wrist is bent forward. The numbness or pain may be worse at night, and may actually keep patients awake. Throughout the day, it may occur more often when participating in activities that use the wrist, such as talking on the phone and driving.
Common Causes of CTS
Some diseases or conditions that may raise your chances of developing CTS include broken or dislocation of wrist bones, pregnancy, diabetes, thyroid problems, menopause and/or obesity. Repetitive and forceful grasping with the hands or repetitive bending of the wrist may also contribute to the problem. Basically, any repetitive motions that cause significant swelling, thickening, or irritation of the membranes around the tendons in the carpal tunnel may result in the pressure on the median nerve, which disrupts transmission of sensations from the hand up to the arm and to the central nervous system.
If you notice persistent symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention, as you don’t want to wait for the pain to become intolerable. Before a doctor is able to recommend a
course of treatment, they will first perform a thorough evaluation of the condition, which includes inquiring about your medical history, a physical examination, and a diagnostic test. The doctor will document any symptoms and inquire about the extent to which these symptoms impact your daily life. The physical examination will include assessments of sensation, strength, and reflexes. If nonsurgical treatment like medication, bracing, or physical therapy are unable to provide sufficient relief, then the doctor may perform further diagnostic studies to figure out if surgery is an effective option. Such diagnostic studies may encompass:
● X-ray in order to examine the bones of the wrist to figure out if any abnormalities are contributing to CTS
● EMG/NCS (Electromyogram and Nerve Conduction Study)- these tests illustrate how the nerves and muscles are working together and measure the electrical impulse along nerve roots, peripheral nerves, and muscle tissues.
If you are seeking treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, call Neurosurgery of Central Florida to make an appointment today.