Carpal tunnel syndrome. Everyone’s heard of it and – if you use your hands in repetitive tasks — you may be afraid of developing it yourself.
But what, exactly, is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)? Who’s at risk for it? Are there certain professions that are more prone to CTS? What can you do to prevent it? And why is it so important to see a Phoenix hand and wrist doctor to get treatment or surgery as soon as possible?
The carpal tunnel refers to the passageway that connects the wrist to the hand. It is filled with tendons that bend the fingers as well as the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the palm and conveys sensation to the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and the thumb side of the ring finger. The carpal tunnel is surrounded by the carpal bones on the back and sides of the hand and by the transversal carpal ligament on the palm side of the hand.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is squeezed or impinged upon – usually by inflamed tendons or swelling within the carpal tunnel. The pressure compresses the median nerve, decreasing its function and limiting the flow of blood to the fingers and hand. If left untreated, the compression of the median nerve and lack of blood flow in CTS can lead to permanent nerve damage.
Any job or activity that demands repetitive movements of the fingers and wrist, awkward hand movements, vibration, and/or mechanical stress on the palm increases the risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. The occupations associated with CTS tend to emphasize strong tugging, pulling, pushing, or twisting movements. Ironically, claims that repetitive typing on computer keyboards caused CTS first brought the condition to the attention of the general public, but subsequent scientific research has not validated a causal relationship in this case.
CTS has also been associated with various diseases and conditions that cause inflammation of the tendons and/or median nerve in the carpal tunnel.
The following is a list of some of the occupations and movements associated with CTS:
Farmworkers, Fishermen, Butchers and Poultry Processors
Factory and Assembly Workers
Cashiers, Receipt Processors
Homemakers, Tailors, Garment Workers
Locksmiths, Electronics Workers
The following diseases and conditions can cause inflammation of the tendons and nerves in the carpal tunnel and possibly lead to CTS:
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include tingling, numbness, shooting pains, cramps, swelling and weakness of the hand, fingers, and/or wrist. These may begin gradually and manifest
first as a tingling, burning, numbness or itching sensation in the palm of the hand and fingers (particularly the thumb, index, and middle fingers, which are fed by the median nerve).
The first signs of CTS might also include needing to shake out your hand after sleep or inactivity. You might also find it more difficult to perform manual tasks. Some people can’t tell the difference between hot and cold when they touch an object. In more advanced cases, the muscles at the base of the thumb can even atrophy!
If you suspect you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, you should be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible.
In addition to treating underlying conditions and halting or modifying the types of movements that cause CTS, there are a number of treatments for the condition. Some of these include:
Alternative therapies, such as yoga, acupuncture and chiropractic care
At The Fitzmaurice Hand Institute, we perform a variation of endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery that we developed called EndoTech®. This revolutionary, minimally invasive procedure uses very small incisions and utilizes patent-pending technology that allows Dr. Fitzmaurice to visualize the median nerve, tendons, and blood vessels and to operate with minuscule, precisely engineered tools. We can therefore release pressure on the median nerve without injuring surrounding tissues, leading to a better outcome, shorter recovery time, and virtually no recurrence.
We can also diagnose CTS on site with our own ultrasound and X-ray machines, which means that you can have your consultation and your treatment on the same day, if necessary. The EndoTech® system is only available to the hand and wrist surgeons at The Fitzmaurice Hand Institute and at our newly opened Hand & Wrist Urgent Care center, both near Phoenix in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The recovery time from EndoTech® surgery is much faster than traditional open or endoscopic surgeries. Most EndoTech® patients can remove their dressings after two days and return to work within a week.
To aid recovery and allow the nerves to regenerate, our center has also developed NeuroGen® – a nutritional supplement that specifically nourishes nerve cells. NeuroGen® stimulates the growth of nerves and enhances their productivity. We also offer cutting-edge therapy with stem cells to regrow nerves.
If you’re in a profession that has a high predisposition of CTS, or if you use your hands or wrists in repetitive movements that may put pressure on the median nerve, you can stretch your fingers, hands and wrists, take frequent rest breaks, and improve your posture and work position to help prevent the occurrence of CTS. Employers can help prevent CTS by re-designing work stations and tools. Wearing fingerless gloves may also keep hands and wrists warm, safe, and flexible. Learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome at WebMD.com.
If you suspect you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute near Phoenix in Scottsdale can handle everything from diagnosis to treatment in the same center. We can even perform surgery on the same day as your consultation, if necessary. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our hand and wrist specialists!