Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
|Immediately Post-op Carpal Tunnel release|
The symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome usually start at night when people sleep with flexed wrists. As it progresses, the tingling and numbness can be felt on and off during the day. It can cause decreased grip strength and weakness in the hands.
CTS can be worsened by medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, pregnancy or wrist trauma. Women are three times more likely to develop CTS than men, and it is rare in children. Most of the time no cause is found. The space that the median nerve traverses is very tiny and it doesn't take much to compress the nerve. Even small amounts of tissue swelling such as occurs in pregnancy can cause severe symptoms.
The treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome starts with simple remedies like aspirin or NSAIDs. Some people are helped by wearing wrist splints at night to avoid flexion. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help, but if the nerve is inflamed exercises are not going to help.
For severe CTS, a corticosteroid injection into the wrist to reduce swelling can provide prolonged symptom relief (4-12 months). If injections fail or if there are signs of hand weakness, carpal tunnel surgery that releases the trapped nerve can be the answer. This surgery, done under local anesthesia, is quick and usually provides permanent cure.
Thanks to my patient, SP, for providing this photo immediately post-op after undergoing endoscopic surgery. Two tiny incisions are made in the wrist and the palm, and a camera attached to a tube visualizes the carpal ligament that can then be cut by the hand surgeon. The patient can resume normal activities within days.