If you’re experiencing tingling, numbness or weakness in the hand, thumb or first three fingers, this could be a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. With this, you might also experience pain between the wrist and the elbow.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is an inflammation of the tendons within the carpal tunnel (on the palm side of your hand), which puts excess pressure on a nerve.
The cause of carpal tunnel is thought to come from an injury, a disease or even a simple repetitive motion, such as frequent keyboard use or playing an instrument. However, the root cause is still a mystery.
“We’re not sure what causes carpal tunnel syndrome or why some people get it and others don’t,” said Dr. John Westkaemper, MD, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Irving.
“Someone’s anatomy might predispose them to it,” he said.
“When someone has carpal tunnel syndrome, it means there’s so much swelling in the wrist that blood supply to the nerve is getting cut off. Just like your brain needs oxygen, your nerves need oxygen,” said Dr. Westkaemper.
Unfortunately, there are no preventative treatment methods, however, there are ways to relieve the symptoms. Dr. Westkaemper advises that steroid injections, stretching exercises or physical therapy could help ease the pain, but notes that being physically fit and active can keep your joints limber and loose.
If those methods are ineffective, then ultimately the next option is surgery.
Surgical options include traditional open surgery, which involves making a one-inch incision in the palm and directly releasing the ligament, or endoscopic surgery.
“For the past five years, I’ve been using a minimally invasive surgical system called Manos that my patients love,” said Dr. Westkaemper. “It’s a better recovery. Patients hardly ever need therapy afterward and usually go back to work within three days.”
With the Manos method, both wrists can be done at the same time, as opposed to traditional open surgery, where they have to be done one at a time, spaced weeks apart.
If you suffer from symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, contact a Baylor Scott & White Health orthopedic physician.