Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: You’ve Heard of It, but What is It?
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, orthopedic surgeons perform about 260,000 surgeries each year to relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Almost half of carpal tunnel syndrome cases develop as a result of work-related activities. You’re probably familiar with the name carpal tunnel syndrome, but unless you or a close friend, relative, or coworker has developed this condition you may not know much about it.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Explained
Before you can understand carpal tunnel syndrome, you must understand what the carpal tunnel, or carpal canal, is. Stretch out your hand, palm-side up. Within the area where the palm connects to the forearm is a compartment consisting of bones, connective tissue, nine flexor tendons, and one nerve (the median nerve). The carpal tunnel compartment is very narrow. Should the tendons swell or become injured, the nerve will become compressed, resulting in a painful condition called carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Risk Factors
Carpal tunnel syndrome afflicts women three times more frequently than men, and usually manifests on the dominant hand first. Repetitive motion is one cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Those who use frequently use a computer keyboard, work with tools that vibrate, sew, or work on an assembly line are especially prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition to workplace factors, other causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include illnesses such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and fluid retention that increases inflammation within the carpal tunnel. Pregnancy is a common reason for fluid retention; pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome usually resolves on its own after pregnancy.
Signs That You May Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If your job (or frequent hobbies) requires the use of frequent repetitive hand motions (keyboarding, for instance) and you experience hand or wrist discomfort, your doctor will probably want to rule out carpal tunnel syndrome first. The most common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are:
- Tingling, itching, numbness, or pain in the palm and fingers
- Sensation of swelling in the fingers even when no visible swelling is apparent
- Decreased grip strength
- Difficulty grasping small objects
Carpal Tunnel Treatments
Depending on the severity of your case, your orthopedic doctor may recommend hand exercises and use of a wrist splint, local corticosteroid injections or, in severe cases, surgery. If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome, your quality of life and ability to function are being affected. There’s no need to suffer any longer. Contact us at Greater Austin Orthopaedics today to schedule a consultation. The doctors at our South Austin, Southwest Austin, North Austin, and Lockhart orthopedic offices will perform a series of tests to evaluate the strength of your hand muscles and may take an x-ray or perform a nerve conduction study to pinpoint the cause of your discomfort.