If you’ve been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), you know all too well how this condition can impact your life and your ability to lead a comfortable life. Most who live with this condition describe feeling numbness and weakness in their arm, wrist and fingers.
There are a number of causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, and it’s important to first get to the bottom of the why before pursuing any sort of treatment. Many patients are concerned that a diagnosis of CTS means that they are headed for surgery. While surgery is a good option for many patients, it’s not the only option to consider.
Understanding carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a fairly common condition. It can result in pain, numbness and also some sensations of tingling in the hand and arm of the person afflicted with it. It typically occurs when the median nerve in the hand has pressure applied to it for one reason or another.
The median nerve is the nerve that is responsible for you being able to move and feel your thumb and the first four fingers on your hand. If pressure applied to the nerve escalates to a certain point, there’ll be increased swelling in the carpal tunnel in your arm. This can cause a narrowing of the carpal tunnel and an increase in the symptoms of the condition.
According to Dr. Justin Perron, there are a number of reasons why this can happen. Quite often it’s as the result of repetitive motion, which could include typing or playing music. Bakers, sewers, hair stylists and those who work on assembly lines are also often found to be living with CTS.
There are some medical conditions that can lead to developing CTS, including obesity, diabetes, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis and even pregnancy. If it is pregnancy related, the CTS will typically vanish entirely once the baby is delivered.
It’s suggested that you don’t avoid getting treated for this common concern. After some time, the patient may start to experience weakness and a loss of coordination in the affected hand. This can prove problematic for those for whom their hands are a part of how they earn their living.
What non-surgical treatment options are available?
After a thorough examination of your hands and wrists, your doctor will be able to make a decision about the best course of treatment for you and your CTS. The severity of the condition will often dictate the course of action that your doctor recommends.
If you have just received a diagnosis, you may be initially fitted with a brace. Prescribed cortisone can help to see a reduction in the inflammation. It will be suggested that you change up your daily routine to avoid the repetitive motions that may be responsible for your CTS. Physical therapy may also be introduced, along with different options in bracing and support for the wrist.
If, after six months, the tingling, numbness or pain has not been reduced or improved, surgery may be your next best option to consider.
What if surgery is recommended?
If your surgeon suggests that you take the surgical route, there is a lot of great research that demonstrates the effectiveness of the surgery itself. Your surgeon may take an open or an endoscopic approach to your procedures, based upon the severity of your carpal tunnel syndrome.
The open surgery procedure involves an incision about two inches long, made between your palm and your wrist. Endoscopic surgery involves one small incision, made at your wrist, for the insertion of a camera that will aid the surgeon working on the ligament.
Recovering from surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome will involve medications to reduce pain and inflammation, along with good support for the arm, wrist and hand during the recovery phase. The surgery itself is typically performed on an outpatient basis, with full motion and recovery seen within six to eight weeks of the procedure.