What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

February 23, 2022 | Brain and Spine Specialists

Among the most common nerve disorders patients experience today, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affects more than eight million people across the globe each year and is often very treatable.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

The most common symptom of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a decrease or weakness in grip strength. When unaccompanied, this symptom tends to be overlooked, but it should be noted that this is one of the first indications of the condition. Along with weakness when gripping objects, most patients simultaneously experience pain or numbness described as “pins and needles” in the hands and fingers. Another common symptom can be having a swollen, or even burning feeling in your fingers, especially in the thumb, index, and middle finger.

The symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be very minor the first couple of times you notice them. For most patients, these symptoms come and go and can easily be overlooked. However, as the condition progresses with time, these same symptoms can become more and more frequent and last for longer periods of time. The sooner you recognize and treat these symptoms, the less likely you are to require surgery as part of your treatment plan. It is worth noting that some patients experience symptoms that worsen at nighttime and can cause interrupted sleep.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Causes

Unfortunately, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of those tricky conditions that sometimes shows up with no obvious cause. Sometimes, it can be due to a family history of CTS. Other times, it could be related to hormonal or metabolic changes relating to pregnancy or menopause. Changes in blood sugar levels, especially in individuals with type 2 diabetes, could also exacerbate symptoms.

For some patients, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be directly linked to the type of work they do on a day-to-day basis. Frequently making small, repetitive movements or grasping movements can greatly increase your risk of developing this condition. Commonly we see that patients who type or use keyboards in their profession are at higher risk for developing CTS. This can also be linked back to some sports and physical activities as well.

Other causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often involve a prior injury such as wrist sprains, dislocations or even fractures and breaks. Other conditions such as arthritis, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis have also been known to be contributing factors in symptom progression.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatments

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of the most common hand-related conditions that can require surgery. Without early detection and proper correction, the condition can progress to the point that surgery is the only means for improvement. During a corrective surgery, the surgeon will cut the tissue pressing on the nerve and relieve the built-up pressure it has caused. With surgery being the most extreme treatment plan, it is worth noting that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be dramatically improved by using a variety of non-surgical treatments.

Depending on your age, the severity of your condition, and personal medical history, your doctor may recommend wearing a splint as part of your treatment plan. Splints are great for keeping the wrist in a stationary position while allowing nerves inside of the Carpal Tunnel to decompress. This method or relief is commonly prescribed with the use of an anti-inflammatory medication to reduce any swelling you may have. Another non-surgical treatment plan is to observe and make worksite changes allowing your desk to be more ergonomic. This can be anything from moving your keyboard to getting an entirely different desk and chair.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can mimic a variety of other conditions, so it is important to talk with your doctor about a formal diagnosis before seeking treatment.