Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that often causes numbness and tingling in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and part of the ring finger. These symptoms are caused by compression of the median nerve at the wrist level. Along with sensation changes, the muscles around the thumb can weaken and patients can sometimes lose the ability to grasp small objects or sense the difference between hot and cold temperatures.
Sometimes carpal tunnel syndrome occurs without a clear reason or injury. Common causes may include:
- A fracture near the wrist
- Fluid retention due to pregnancy
- Thyroid disease, particularly an under active thyroid
How long carpal tunnel syndrome takes to recover is dependent on the cause and the length of time the symptoms have been present. Sometimes the symptoms come and go and sometimes they are constant.
Symptoms may include:
- Waking up with numb hands which may lead you to shake the wrist and hand for relief
- Tingling during the day
- Swelling sensation in the fingers
- Dropping objects
Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually diagnosed based on the description of symptoms and by a thorough physical examination.
Blood tests may be ordered to look for evidence of diabetes or thyroid disease, since these are common triggers of carpal tunnel syndrome. X-rays and nerve studies might help in the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome as well.
- Wearing a splint on the affected wrist is often the first place to start.
- Taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help reduce inflammation.
- Injections of cortisone may help reduce inflammation.
- Referral to a Certified Hand Therapist for ergonomic education, therapeutic exercises and therapeutic modalities.
If conservative management does not help, surgery can relieve pressure on the median nerve. This is done by releasing a ligament at the base of the wrist, which relieves pressure from the nerve in the carpal tunnel.