Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common hand problems in the U.S., affecting between 4 million and 10 million people, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Carpal tunnel syndrome (or CTS) can affect just about anyone, but it’s more common among middle-aged people and women — in fact, women are about three times as likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome as men.
Of course, just knowing there are plenty of other people experiencing the same symptoms as you doesn’t really make those symptoms any less painful. The good news is, CTS is very treatable — and in most cases, you can find relief with nonsurgical treatments customized for your symptoms and your lifestyle.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage that’s formed by your wrist bones and a strong ligament, called the transverse ligament, that makes up the “roof” of the tunnel. Normally, this tunnel acts to protect the large median nerve (the main nerve in your wrist) as it travels from your forearm into your hand. But sometimes, inflammation or other problems can cause the tunnel to become narrower than normal, and the median nerve can become “pinched” or compressed, resulting in symptoms like pain, tingling, or weakness in your fingers or palm.
Lots of factors can cause or contribute to CTS and its symptoms, including:
Sometimes, multiple factors can cause symptoms; other times, the cause of CTS can’t be determined.
At The Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre, carpal tunnel syndrome treatment begins with a thorough evaluation of your hand and wrist, as well as a review of your health history and your lifestyle to help determine what’s causing your symptoms. In addition to a physical exam of your hand and wrist, our team may order X-rays or other imaging tests or nerve conduction studies to gain a complete picture of your condition.
Most patients who have CTS benefit from conservative options aimed at decreasing swelling and inflammation in and around the wrist. These options could include:
If these more conservative options don’t provide meaningful relief for your pain, numbness, or other CTS symptoms, you might need surgery to relieve pressure on the median nerve.
CTS surgery (also called carpal tunnel release) focuses on dividing the ligament “roof” over the carpal tunnel to provide more room for the nerve as it travels from the forearm into the hand. There are two methods used in carpal tunnel surgery:
No matter which approach is used for your surgery, recovery is similar. You’ll need to wear a brace during the early stages of healing, and you’ll also need to have physical therapy to restore flexibility and strength in your hand. Most people can expect to have grip strength restored within two to three months, but in severe cases, complete recovery can take longer.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can take a major toll on your quality of life, but fortunately, CTS treatment can make painful symptoms a thing of the past. The Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre finds the best treatment option for your needs and treatment goals. To schedule your CTS evaluation, book an appointment online today.