What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition caused by the compression of the median nerve. The median nerve is responsible for providing sensory feedback to all fingers except the pinky. This nerve, which runs the length of the arm, goes through a small passage near the palm of your hand called the carpal tunnel. Some of the most common carpal tunnel symptoms include:
- Wrist Pain
- Muscle weakness
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Repetitive motion and pressure on the wrist can cause swelling leading to pain near the carpal tunnel. A vast number of factors, such as sex, excessive weight, working conditions, and body fluid retention, have been identified as possible aggravators. Certain lifestyle changes can help prevent and ease carpal tunnel pain. Weight loss, changing wrist position while working, and frequent breaks are all beneficial. The following conditions may also increase the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid dysfunction
Carpal Tunnel Diagnosis
Physicians may diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome through a combination of electrophysiological tests and physical examinations. Some of these tests include but are not limited to:
- Nerve Conduction Studies: These tests allow specialists to measure if your median nerve is effectively emitting electrical signals through your arm and fingers.
Physical Examination: Another way to check for carpal tunnel syndrome is via a physical examination. Specialists can test the strength of your hand muscles and check for other possible causes for the pressure.
X-Rays: While x-rays cannot detect carpal tunnel syndrome, they can help eliminate other possible pain sources such as injuries and fractures.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatments
For more effective results, it is important to treat symptoms as soon as they begin. Taking steps to lessen the pressure around the wrist area is also crucial in preventing symptoms from worsening. Taking frequent breaks and applying heat or cold packs to the site can help pain relief. For more the more advanced stages of carpal tunnel syndrome, other treatments are available such as:
Splinting: Wearing a wrist splint while sleeping prevents your wrist from bending in odd positions relieving the numbing and tingling that is often experienced at night. In some cases, it can also be beneficial to wear during the day.
Over the Counter & Prescription Drugs: Pain-relieving medications available at your local pharmacies such as Advil and Motrin IB may be recommended to manage pain. These medications, however, do not improve this condition.
Corticosteroids: These injections are used to decrease inflammation around the wrist, reducing the pressure being applied to the median nerve.
Surgery: Carpal tunnel surgery is a procedure in which the ligaments surrounding the median nerve are cut to relieve pressure. It can be performed in both open and endoscopic settings.
Carpal Tunnel Nerve Block Treatments
We specialize in Peripheral Nerve Block injections, which can, in some cases, mitigate the need for surgery. There are several types of nerve block treatments, including but not limited to the following.
Therapeutic Nerve Blocks: Used to treat painful conditions. These nerve blocks contain local anesthetic that can be used to control acute pain.
Diagnostic Nerve Blocks: Used to determine the sources of pain. Diagnostic nerve blocks typically contain an anesthetic with a specific duration of relief.
Prognostic Nerve Blocks: Predicts the outcomes of given treatments. For example, a nerve block may be performed to determine if more permanent treatments would successfully treat pain.
Preemptive Nerve Blocks: Prevents subsequent pain from a procedure that can cause problems, including phantom limb pain.