It may be tempting to try to ignore the pain, tingling, and numbness in your hand and arm resulting from carpal tunnel syndrome, but it’s not wise. This pain is a sign from your body that the major nerve to your hand — called the median nerve — is being compressed and needs relief to prevent your symptoms from worsening.
If you treat carpal tunnel early, you can often find long-term relief with the use of a wrist splint or simple lifestyle modifications.
Everyone has a carpal tunnel. It’s a pathway about 1 inch wide in the wrist, formed by the carpal bones. A strong band of connective tissue forms the top of the tunnel.
The tunnel is pretty tight and narrow and has little room to expand. The median nerve that passes through this tunnel into your hand provides sensation in your middle, ring, and index fingers, as well as in the muscles around the bottom of your thumb.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed within this tunnel. This may happen due to inflammation from overuse, odd wrist positioning, or disease. The compromised nerve causes the feelings of weakness, pain, and numbness in your hand.
If you start to notice the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced team at Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists. Symptoms might include: numbness and burning in your fingers and thumb, weakness and clumsiness in your hand, dropping things, and greater pain during the night.
Surgery is inconvenient and requires a long recovery, so you want to avoid it if you can. Seeing a doctor when you first experience symptoms lessen the chance that you’ll have to go the surgical route to find relief.
When diagnosed early, noninvasive treatment can bring relief so you can avoid surgery altogether.
For example, the doctors at Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists may recommend bracing or splinting at night, and sometimes during the day. This keeps your wrist in a neutral position, thereby reducing pressure on the median nerve. Over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, help relieve pain and inflammation, too.
You may be coached on ways to reposition your wrist in more ergonomically favorable ways, which helps relieve pressure on the nerve. If a job task, such as repetitive typing or assembly line work, is an aggravator, you may need to talk to your supervisor and make changes to your workstation.
Physical therapy exercises that promote smoother gliding of the median nerve along the carpal tunnel also help relieve inflammation and improve function. The doctors at Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists may also recommend steroid injections to temporarily reduce inflammation and alleviate your pain.
Don’t hope that carpal tunnel pain will just go away. It won’t. Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms usually worsen as time passes and you continue to aggravate the median nerve.
Early intervention means less discomfort and a decreased risk of needing an invasive, surgical intervention that interrupts your daily function for months. Contact Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists for diagnosis and easy fixes that can prevent long-term disability.