Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes pain or a tingling and numbing sensation in your hand. This discomfort is caused by pressure being put on your median nerve. This nerve runs from the hand, all the way up the arm and passes through an opening called the carpal tunnel; hence the name carpal tunnel syndrome. This nerve carries sensation from outer 3 digits of your hands and controls the movement of the thumb and all fingers except the pinky. When there is swelling within the carpal tunnel, painful symptoms may arise.
Studies show that women and older people are more likely to develop the condition. This condition is also common in patients who type or use computers repeatedly, since these motions can put constant pressure on the important nerve that runs from the hand and through the wrist. This condition can arise from swelling in the area due to the repeated movements.
Other risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- The carpal tunnel may be smaller in some people or there may be anatomic differences that change the amount of space for the nerve— and these traits can run in families.
- Repetitive hand use. Repeating the same hand and wrist motions or activities over a prolonged period of time may aggravate the tendons in the wrist, causing swelling that puts pressure on the nerve.
- Hand and wrist position. Doing activities that involve extreme flexion or extension of the hand and wrist for a prolonged period of time can increase pressure on the nerve.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause swelling.
- Health conditions. Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance are conditions that are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel can sometimes be managed with lifestyle changes and the use of anti-inflammatories or a brace. However, if these steps haven’t been working for you, a surgical technique can be used to release the transverse carpal ligament, which can eliminate the pressure on the nerve. After you have had your initial consultation with Dr. Fichadia, she will then decide if you are in need of carpal tunnel release surgery and which type she will decide to use. There are two ways of doing carpal tunnel release – open technique and endoscopic (minimally invasive) technique. Both techniques have similar outcomes at one year. The benefit of using an endoscopic technique is that it is less invasive with a faster recovery period. During this endoscopic surgery, Dr. Fichadia will cut or “release” the transverse carpal ligament. This eliminates the pressure on the median nerve and therefore relieves the painful symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
When using an endoscopic technique, patients are typically able to return to desk jobs in about 1-2 weeks. Full strength and heavy gripping may take longer, about 4-6 weeks to return.
If you are having difficulty with the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, call Dr. Fichadia’s office today to schedule a consultation. We would be happy to answer any questions that you may have!