Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, by Ayisha Livingstone, MD
If you have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand because of pressure on the median nerve in your wrist, you may be suffering from a common injury known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
The median nerve and several tendons run from your forearm to your hand through a small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel The median nerve controls movement and feeling in your thumb and first three fingers but not your little finger.
Pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome. Many things can cause this swelling, including:
- Illnesses such as hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.
- Making the same hand movements over and over, especially if the wrist is bent down (your hands lower than your wrists), or making the same wrist movements over and over such as working on a keyboard of a computer or laptop or even using a smartphone.
Symptoms most often occur in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. If you have problems with your other fingers but your little finger is fine, this may be a sign that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. A different nerve gives feeling to the little finger.
You may first notice symptoms at night and you may be able to get relief by shaking your hand.
My first questions are typically if you have health problems-such as arthritis, hypothyroidism, or diabetes-or if you are pregnant. I also need to know if you recently hurt your wrist, arm, or neck and about your daily routine and any recent activities that could have hurt your wrist.
During the exam, I will check the feeling, strength, and appearance of your neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands and will often request a nerve tests to be completed before I make a final diagnosis.
Mild symptoms usually can be treated with home care and/or therapy and you should:
- Stop activities that cause numbness and pain. Rest your wrist longer between activities.
- Ice your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes 1 or 2 times an hour.
- Try taking (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
- Wear a wrist splint at night which I can prescribe for you. This takes pressure off your median nerve.
The sooner you start treatment, the better your chances of stopping symptoms and preventing long-term damage to the nerve.
Surgery may be an option, but it’s usually used only when symptoms are so bad that you can’t work or do other things even after several weeks to months of other treatment.
To keep carpal tunnel syndrome from coming back, take care of your basic health. Stay at a healthy weight. Don’t smoke. Exercise to stay strong and flexible. If you have a long-term health problem, such as arthritis or diabetes, follow your doctor’s advice for keeping your condition under control.
You can also try to take good care of your wrists and hands:
- Try to keep your wrist in a neutral position.
- Use your whole hand-not just your fingers-to hold objects.
- When you type, keep your wrists straight, with your hands a little higher than your wrists. Relax your shoulders when your arms are at your sides.
- If you can, switch hands often when you repeat movements.
If you believe you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, call our office today at (954) 771-8177 or request an appointment online.