Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or CTS as it is otherwise known, is usually caused by inflammation of the tendons in the wrist. The cause of this is down to repetitive actions such as long hours typing on a keyboard , fettling and orbiting metalwork in a factory and even folding boxes on an assembly line, anything that is constant and repetitive. In some instances it can be brought on by pregnancy, trauma, arthritis and obesity.
A band of fibrous tissue extends around our wrists which supports the joint between the hand and forearm, the space between this band and the wrist bone is known as the Carpal Tunnel and its the nerves that run through this tunnel that create the problem. This group of nerves are very much like a group of electric wires. When two electric wires rub against one another, or touch it causes a short circuit, well that's what happens with your nerves, creating a severe shooting pain. Certain hand moments will create pressure, friction and stretching of he nerves, this results in the pain.
The symptoms are always tingling and numbness of the hand just like pins and needles, or more so the thumb and first three fingers. This seems to increase during sleeping hours keeping the sufferer awake. It also causes thumb muscle weakness leading to problems with grasping and pinching. Excess swelling of the hand will increase the pain, use an ice pad or cold compress on the affected parts to alleviate the discomfort.
Although it sounds obvious the best thing you can do with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is to rest the hand. Wrist splints are available, otherwise be careful not to knock your hand and avoid movements and activities that will increase pain. Regular massage therapy is a little known method of reliving the pain and also some patients have used yoga with good results. Find a good diet plan that will give your body all the correct nourishment that it needs. There are also some very good natural inflammation aids and muscle relaxers available that can provide lasting relief. The added benefit of using natural or herbal supplements is that there is no risk of side effects that you get with manufactured drugs. Consult your doctor who will probably put you on some type of anti-inflammatory medication. In some instances Carpal Tunnel will disappear on its own accord, but in most cases it will be surgery.
Carpal Tunnel surgery should only be as a last resort. The two main forms of surgery are open nerve release and more recently endoscopic laser surgery. Both are performed under local anaesthetic. Both these procedures involve making small incisions to make the Carpal Tunnel larger, but the laser treatment has smaller incisions, less scarring and has a shorter recovery time. Unfortunately, after surgery hand and grip function will never be the same. The surgery will have permanently disabled part of your hand actions. Also you should bear in mind that this procedure has a low success rate, many patients undergo multiple Carpal Tunnel operations over the years.
After surgery its generally a matter of wait and see if nerve damage in the wrist has healed by itself, although recent studies have found that this may not be the best policy. People with motor nerve damage caused by carpal tunnel syndrome or by surgery are often told to take a ‘wait and see’ approach. The idea being that such damage might heal better when left alone. New research from Children’s Hospital Boston, US, however, indicates that the opposite may be true. Waiting could actually make the damage irreversible.
Reviewing data from 136 patients with carpal tunnel syndrome and 20 with cubical tunnel syndrome, the researchers were able to show that the longer the time period between onset of symptoms and surgery, the less patients were to experience a full recovery. Those who had decompression surgery within 10 months of the injury were able to recover nearly completely, whereas those made to wait more than 10 months, had a very low rate of recovery.
Are you at risk ? Well women are three times more likely to fall victim than men. If you feel that you have the symptoms consult your doctor and discuss the problem. Waiting will only lead to the condition getting worse and unnecessary pain.