Nerve compression can cause pain, weakness, tingling, and numbness no matter where it occurs in your body. Carpal tunnel syndrome, also called CTS, is a nerve compression issue that affects your hand, wrist, and lower arm. When the effects of CTS interfere with your day, it’s time to see Dr. Douglas Abeles of Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates in Castro Valley, California. No matter what it takes to bring relief, Dr. Abeles is well-versed in all treatments. Call or click for an appointment today.
The median nerve that transmits signals between the brain and much of the hand passes through a narrow channel on the underside of your wrist, the carpal tunnel. Normally, there’s no problem with this, and the carpal tunnel provides the median nerve with a natural layer of protection.
Whether through a naturally small tunnel, a wrist injury, disease, or stresses caused by repetitive motion, the median nerve may become irritated, causing the symptoms of CTS. Often, issues arise from a combination of factors and, in some cases, the reasons for carpal tunnel syndrome may not be known.
Unless an injury affects the carpal tunnel, most CTS symptoms occur gradually over time. Usually, numbness and tingling are the first sensations you experience. It may be a general sensation, or you may feel it in your thumb or any of your other fingers, except the little finger because its nerves don’t pass through the carpal tunnel.
Sensations may move up your arm, and occasionally sudden incidents that are often described as electric shocks may occur. With time, these symptoms may occur more often or increase in intensity. Pain, from throbbing aches to sharp stabbing feelings, may develop, along with weakness in your hand to the point that your grasping strength occasionally fails. The pain of CTS often interferes with sleep.
When repetitive motion contributes to CTS, often ceasing that activity can reduce the symptoms. When this isn’t possible, such as when the repetitive strain occurs at work or an essential daily activity, taking breaks or modifying the ergonomics or mechanics of the task may be beneficial. Physiotherapy, including exercises specific to building strength in the carpal tunnel area, are usually helpful if the condition hasn’t progressed too far.
Wearing support splints, including at night, can assist in preventing a collapse of the carpal tunnel and taking pressure off of the median nerve. Drug therapies include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and corticosteroid injections.
When conservative treatments fail, surgery to relieve pressure on the median nerve may be necessary. Typically, the ligament that contacts the median nerve is cut to allow more clearance.