Carpal tunnel syndrome is not only possibly bilateral or affecting both hands, it's most often bilateral. Typically people get carpal tunnel syndrome either because they have a strong anatomic basis for it. They're just born prone to develop carpal tunnel compression or because the syndrome is the result of some underlying medical problem. Because of both of those factors, it does often affect both hands rather than just one hand at a time.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a compression of the median nerve in the palm. It's very common in individuals who use their hands at work - including desk work or high impact labor. It generally presents with numbness and tingling in the thumb, index, middle, and ring finger.
Although quite bothersome, people with carpal tunnel syndrome should be reassured that there are many ways to experience improvement in the symptoms, and in fact, there is a way to eradicate the problem entirely and to cure carpal tunnel syndrome. Therefore, if people feel that they're having symptoms, which suggests that carpal tunnel syndrome may be responsible, they should absolutely seek medical attention and get help for their problem. Suffering with the condition usually only prolongs it and can lead to further damage to the nerve, whereas early intervention can cure people of their symptoms before it becomes a bigger problem. It's really important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and determine if carpal tunnel syndrome may be responsible and therefore get appropriate treatment in a timely fashion.
Surgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, like many conditions has evolved over the years. The incisions for carpal tunnel surgery used to be quite large and extensive, and the surgery itself led to a lot of discomfort and morbidity after the procedure. Recent efforts have been directed at minimizing the invasiveness of carpal tunnel surgery, and there are number of different techniques that have been devised to accomplish this. This is something you should talk to your hand surgeon about and ask them what their recommended method of treatment is and what the alternatives are. It will lead you to come to a conclusion as to the best way to manage your carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you need more information about carpal tunnel syndrome, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Association for hand surgery, the ASSH and the AAHS are great resources for patient information. They have video tutorials, they have printed material, and they have referral sources where you can get further information about how to understand your condition and where to go to seek medical attention.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is specifically limited to the wrist. Patients will often experience symptoms higher up, in the neck or shoulder, that they may attribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. But in fact, carpal tunnel syndrome is only compression of the one specific nerve, the median nerve, as it travels through the wrist and the carpal tunnel.
Everybody has a carpal tunnel. The question is: do they have enough compression to cause problems? It is very common. If you ask around to your friends, most of them will have said that at some time in their life they've had trouble with a numb hand that then extends up the arm. So it comes, it goes, and it's present in many of us, but when it becomes bothersome - that's the time to think about "what should I do about it?"
Carpal tunnel is a common problem in the population. Many people have it. Some people need to have it addressed and seen by health professionals, but not everyone. You should not be afraid to see a health professional. There are conservative treatments as we've outlined, and for those for whom the conservative treatments don't work, surgery is a very effective option.
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