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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: The Basics

  • All
  • Overview
  • Prevention
  • Testing & Diagnosis
  • Symptoms & Causes
  • Treatment
  • Surgery

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is an affliction that causes problems in your hand due to pressure in the median nerve of your wrist. This affliction can cause weakness, numbness, tingling, and a host of other problems in your hand. The name refers to the fact that CTS affects the median nerve running through a small tunnel in your wrist, known as the carpal tunnel.

What is bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome?

Bilateral CTS is when a person exhibits the symptoms of CTS in both hands. This is caused by the same processes that lead to CTS, except that both wrists experience the trauma.

Can you get carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands?

It is possible to get CTS in both hands. When this occurs, the affliction is known as Bilateral Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Treatment for this is the same as standard CTS.

Can carpal tunnel syndrome cause elbow pain?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is often the cause of elbow pain. CTS can radiate throughout the arm and because the elbow is in close proximity to the wrist, it can also be affected.

Can carpal tunnel syndrome cause shoulder pain?

CTS usually only causes pain in the areas close to the wrist. However, it is possible that CTS pain will radiate all the way to the shoulder and mimic shoulder issues. You should consult your physician as soon as possible for professional advice.

Does carpal tunnel syndrome cause swelling?

CTS can cause swelling in the wrists and fingers. Many people afflicted with CTS often report feeling like they have “sausage fingers” due to the swelling in their hands. If swelling occurs, consult your physician for help.

Does carpal tunnel syndrome go away?

Unfortunately, CTS doesn’t usually go away on its own. CTS could potentially get worse if the affliction is left untreated. Luckily, CTS can be cured through treatment.

Can carpal tunnel syndrome come back?

It is possible for CTS to reoccur, however this is not common. Many people who undergo CTS surgery achieve complete relief of symptoms. For severe cases, surgery may mitigate the symptoms but they may persist indefinitely.

How long does carpal tunnel syndrome last?

The duration of CTS varies from case to case. At the onset of the affliction, CTS will come and go in short bursts of pain or numbness. However, as the affliction progresses, pain may last longer or even indefinitely. Numbness in the hand may last for three months after treatments.

How can I sleep with carpal tunnel syndrome pain?

There are some ways a person can alleviate the pain of CTS before bed. Consider buying a wrist brace to prevent any unnecessary wrist movements during sleep. Additionally, avoid sleeping on your side as your wrist is more compressed in this position. Finally, try to support your arms when you sleep by propping a pillow under them. This will help alleviate the pressure on them. If you need to address the pain in the middle of the night, use an ice pack on your wrist for 10-15 minutes.

Why does carpal tunnel syndrome hurt more at night?

It is common for CTS to hurt more during the night time, due to several causes. There is lower blood circulation in the body when it is resting and there is a lack of muscle movement to disperse the swelling and restricted blood circulation as a result of the swelling when you are resting.

How can you prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?

There are a number of things you can do to prevent CTS. It is important that you keep up your general health (this includes regular exercise and healthy diet). Additionally, you should keep the muscles in your wrists and fingers strong and avoid heavily repeated motions. If avoiding repeated motions is not an option for you, change hands often and take breaks to rest your hands.

Is carpal tunnel syndrome hereditary?

One of the overlooked causes of CTS is that it is hereditary in some cases. Many cases of CTS in young people are a result of the hereditary nature of CTS. Thus, family history could be an indication of potential risk of CTS.

What is an EMG test for carpal tunnel syndrome?

The Electromyography (EMG) test is a test that measures the electrical activity of the nerves. It is conducted by inserting pins into the muscle and measuring the nerve signals for the muscle when relaxed and contracted. The electrical activity that is picked up will then be displayed on a monitor.

Can carpal tunnel syndrome be seen on an x-ray?

X-rays are not typically used for diagnosing CTS. However, they can help find other conditions within the wrist that could be making your CTS worse. These include finding signs of arthritis or finding old or new wrist injuries that were not properly taken care of in the past.

What is the nerve conduction test for carpal tunnel syndrome?

The Nerve Conduction Velocity test is performed using the EMG machine. Patches called surface electrodes are placed over the skin around the nerves. Electrical activity from one of these patches is recorded by the others. The distance between these electrodes and the time it takes to travel from one to another is used to measure nerve speed.

What does carpal tunnel syndrome feel like?

CTS expresses itself in various ways. People with CTS will often feel numbness and tingling in their hands similar to the “pins and needles” feeling you experience when your hand “falls asleep” or becomes numb in a particular position.  Additionally, there is often weakness in your hand, and you may find yourself dropping items or struggling to open doors. Finally, many people with CTS also report feeling a loss of sensation in their hand.

What does carpal tunnel syndrome look like?

Since CTS takes places within the wrist, it can often be hard to spot physical signs. However, if you notice any of the following signs, contact your physician immediately. These are swelling in the wrist, hand, or fingers, coldness or color change in the affected region, or visible signs of muscle wasting which indicates a severe case of CTS.

How can you tell if you have carpal tunnel syndrome?

Some symptoms that may indicate the presence of CTS include the sensation of pins and needles in your hands, experiencing numbness or stiffness in your hands or wrists, weakness in your hands or wrists, and aching between your wrist and forearm. If you exhibit any number of these symptoms, please consult your physician.

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

CTS can be caused by anything that causes the carpal tunnel to become smaller. Many things can cause the swelling of the carpal tunnel. These include illnesses such as diabetes or arthritis, accident, injury, making the same hand or wrist movements repeatedly, and even pregnancy.

How do you treat carpal tunnel syndrome?

There are several treatment options for CTS. If the affliction is caught early, CTS may be corrected through the use of wrist splints, prescription drugs, or corticosteroids. If the affliction has progressed, then surgery may be needed. Consult with your health practitioner for advice.

Are there exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome?

Yes, there are multiple exercises a person with CTS can do to help alleviate the pain.

  • Spider Pushups − put the fingertips of both hands together and push in and out repeatedly
  • The Shake − shake your hands as if you had just finished washing them. Focus here on wrist movement.
  • The Wrist Stretch −place one of your hands straight out in front of you with your palm facing upwards. Bend your wrist in the direction of the floor. Using your other hand, gently bend your wrist farther until you feel a mild to moderate stretch in your forearm. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds.

How can you relieve carpal tunnel syndrome pain?

There are a number of things you can do to help relieve the pain of CTS. First, take regular breaks while working, especially if you do repetitive work with your hands, such as typing or using a mouse. Secondly, ice your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes to help alleviate the pain. Finally, consider wearing wrist splints to minimize trauma to your wrists.

Do wrist braces help with carpal tunnel syndrome?

Yes, wrist braces serve to restrict any unnecessary movement in the wrist. This will minimize making any motions that will contribute to the pain or make the CTS worse.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome surgery?

There are several options for CTS surgery. The most common of these surgeries involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament. This helps alleviate the pressure on the median nerve of your wrist. There are two approaches for this surgery, which are open carpal tunnel release surgery and endoscopic carpal release surgery. Consult with your physician to see which choice is best for you.

How long is recovery from carpal tunnel syndrome surgery?

Recovery from CTS surgery usually takes about 1 to 2 weeks. After this time, the patient can go back and get their stitches removed. Numbness in the hand may last up to 3 months after treatment.

How long does carpal tunnel syndrome surgery take?

Surgery for CTS is relatively quick. Most CTS surgeries are completed in around 10 minutes. After the surgery, the stitches must be kept in place for 7-10 days depending on the surgeon’s instructions. After this period, the patient can go back and have the stitches removed.

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