You use your hands all day long. You probably don’t even realize how many tasks require their use until pain in your hands takes that away from you! If you have pain or numbness in your hands, you may have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is pain or numbness in the thumb and first few fingers caused by pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve runs through a narrow opening in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This is often due to inflammation in the tunnel that pinches the nerve.
Many believe that this is caused by repetitive motion of the hands or wrists, and while this can be true, it is also found to be hereditary, meaning you are more likely to develop this problem if someone in your family has also had it. It can also be caused by diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, fluid retention, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, or fractures of the wrist. It can occur in one or both hands at similar or different intensities. CTS is typically classified by its severity.
Stages of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Stage 1 – Mild Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
At first, you may notice symptoms only at night or when your hands are still for extended periods. There will be some numbness and pain, but it will usually feel better upon moving or shaking your hands. Anti-inflammatory medications, hand braces, or physical therapy may be recommended as a first strategy to alleviate pain. Surgery is typically not advised at this stage.
Stage 2 – Moderate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
During this stage, pain becomes worse and more frequent. It may not be as easy to just “shake off” the pain. You may want to see your doctor at this point to get an official diagnosis. This is usually done with a complete physical examination of the hands, wrists, and arms. Sometimes ultrasound or an electromyogram (EMG) will be preformed to diagnose the severity of the narrowing and extent of nerve damage. If medication, braces, or therapy have not helped, surgery may be recommended at this time. It can help you to avoid any permanent nerve damage.
Stage 3 – Severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
At this point, you will be experiencing symptoms of pain and/or numbness nearly all the time. It is crucial to seek out a qualified hand surgeon quickly so that you do not wind up with irreversible damage to your fingers, hands, or wrists.
Do I Need Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery?
When lifestyle changes are no longer keeping your symptoms under control, CT release surgery may be recommended. This can be an open procedure or an endoscopic one; only your doctor can decide which is best for you. The goal is to eliminate pressure on the median nerve and releasing the transverse carpal ligament is a surgical way to do so. The surgery is typically done with local anesthetic and an overnight hospital stay is rarely necessary.
Schedule a Consultation Today
If you’re in constant or severe pain in your hands, fingers, or wrists, don’t hesitate to contact board-certified hand surgeon Dr. Hetal Fichadia in Portland, Oregon to schedule a consultation today. You can call (503) 488-2344 or fill out the online contact form to get more information today.