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What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel wrist pain

Professionally speaking, no matter what you do for a living, there’s a good chance your hands and wrists are involved. Even the simplest tasks, such as food preparation or engaging in hobbies, rely on use of your hands and wrists. That’s why the condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome is so debilitating to those who suffer from it. Carpal tunnel syndrome can result in pain, numbness, and malfunction of the hands, making life more difficult than it needs to be.

Fortunately, there’s treatment for this increasingly common byproduct of modern life. An orthopedic wrist specialist has many tools to help you regain use of your hands and live a pain-free life once again. Though the condition is technically found in the wrist, its effects impact the use of the hands. However, with the help of a wrist orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta, there’s hope of relief for those who suffer from this condition. Keep reading to learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome and how you can overcome it with the help of an orthopedic wrist specialist.

What Is the Carpal Tunnel?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow channel in the wrist about an inch wide that allows a bundle of nerve tissue called the median nerve to pass safely through the wrist joint. The tunnel is formed by a series of small bones making up the wrist called carpal bones. Specifically, the carpal tunnel forms a protective sleeve for the median nerve and the flexor tendons that move the fingers and thumb and allow them to bend. Though the floor and sides of the tunnel are bone, the roof is comprised of a thick connective tissue known as the transverse carpal ligament. Because the tunnel is made of bone and ligaments, it can’t expand and stretch but instead remains rigid.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS, occurs when the median nerve gets squeezed and compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel. The restriction of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel can come from the narrowing of the tunnel or the swelling of the tissues surrounding it. Those tissues are called the synovium, and they usually provide lubrication for the tendons as they move in the tunnel. However, when those tissues swell, they can only expand inward, leaving less room for the tendons to move and putting pressure on the median nerve.

Orthopedic wrist doctor

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Several specific risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Those risk factors include frequent repetitive movements of the hands that are restricted in range, hand or wrist positions involving extreme flexion for extended periods for work or sports, pregnancy, traumatic injury to the wrist such as fractures or sprains, or other conditions that can cause the restriction of the carpal tunnel. Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or gout can result in CTS.

What Are Common Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Common carpal tunnel symptoms include:

  • Numbness and tingling in the thumb, index and middle fingers
  • Pain and Burning in the hand and wrist
  • Weakness in the hand
  • Diminished grip strength
  • Worsening symptoms at night

What Are the Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Fortunately, there are effective treatments for reducing the impact of carpal tunnel syndrome. First, an orthopedic physician will conduct a physical examination of the affected wrist. The doctor will test for sensitivity, strength of the muscles around the base of the thumb, and tingling when the carpal tunnel is compressed. X-rays, MRIs, ultrasound, and nerve conduction tests may also be used to make the diagnosis.

Your orthopedist can choose from a variety of treatment options depending on the severity of your case. Those treatment options can include simple bracing, use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), behavioral changes, steroid injections, and physical therapy or surgery.

When symptoms are severe enough to warrant surgical intervention, two common options include endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery and mini open carpal tunnel release. With endoscopic surgery, the surgeon uses a tiny tube with a camera attached (endoscope) and tiny tools to perform the surgery. Mini open carpal tunnel release, as the name suggests, utilizes a tiny open incision to perform the surgery, usually performed as an outpatient procedure. 

If you feel you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, consult with an orthopedic wrist specialist to get an expert opinion on the nature and severity of your condition. For more information about carpal tunnel syndrome, its causes, or treatment options, contact OrthoAtlanta at (770) 953-6929.     

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