Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a median entrapment neuropathy that inflicts numbness, paresthesia and pain in the median nerve‘s distribution. It can occur from irritation or compression of the Median nerve that lies in the Carpal Tunnel, the space between the wrist bone and fibrous tissues. The cause is both environmental and genetic. Some predisposing factors like obesity, hypothyroidism, pregnancy, diabetes or doing heavy manual work can also be the cause.
This syndrome is characterized by numbness with a tingling sensation in the hand, specifically in the thumb, index, middle and fourth part of the fourth finger. The pain tends to increase in the night disrupting the sleep.
If left untreated, a person can develop a burning sensation and weakness in the hand. In fact, some tend to lose the ability to grip dropping things involuntarily. Some have also complained about sharp shooting pain in the forearm. These are the symptoms of chronic carpal tunnel syndrome that can lead to atrophy (decay) of the hand muscles, in particular those that are near the thumb’s base in the palm. Treatment is available in both non-surgical and surgical way.
The non-surgical treatments are:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs help in relieving the pain, though just for a short duration.
- Wrist Splinting: This is particularly helpful if the condition has resulted from work conditions, such as operating the computer keyboards from an awkward angle. Splinting the wrist will help it heal and also prevent further damages. Altering the work space is highly recommended in this case.
- Corticosteroids: You doctor can suggest injecting this steroid to relieve the pain. Corticosteroid relieves the swelling and the inflammation relieving pressure on the median nerve. In case the syndrome is a result of an inflammatory arthritis, say rheumatoid arthritis, then treating the underlying condition might reduce the symptoms, but this has not been proven yet. This medicine can be harmful to diabetics.
- Natural Remedies: Cramp bark, Wild Yam or St. John’s Wort used as dried extracts in tea help reduce swelling and ease the pain. Acupuncture and acupressure have also shown good results in some patients.
- Chiropractic Care: Corrective care of the biomechanics of the wrist and hand can relieve a person of the pain and prevent similar problems going forward.
- Other methods: Hydrotherapy (contrasting hot and cold water applications), Hypnotherapy (trances) or Yoga are also suggested by some people. But their efficacies have not been proven.
If there are no positive results from the non-surgical treatments or if the condition is aggravated then surgery is the suggested option. If any nerve damage is noted then also surgery is the best bet. The surgery involves having to cut the ligament forming on the roof of the carpal tunnel. This relieves pressure that is put on the median nerve which can either ease or completely cure the ailment. Surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome are usually successful but if the nerve damage is too much then only partial relief will be obtained and some hand functions might be lost completely or partially.
Cool and damp air tends to agitate the syndrome. For the winters, it is suggested to keep gloves on at all times. If doctor’s advice is followed diligently then the patient will definitely be able to get rid of this syndrome.