Carpal tunnel syndrome, also called median nerve compression, is a numbness or tingling feeling in the hand and arm caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist.
The carpal tunnel is along the palm side of your wrist made up of bones and ligaments.
The median nerve controls the sensation and movement in the thumb and first three fingers. Inflammation is usually an underlying cause of the increased pressure on the nerve. When the median nerve is pinched or compressed, the result is numbness, tingling or pain in the hand.
There are many other conditions that are associated with carpal tunnel, like diabetes, thyroid conditions, fluid retention from pregnancy, autoimmune disease and fractures.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel?
The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel are numbness or tingling. The symptoms frequently occur at night and wake up the person experiencing this feeling.
You may experience these symptoms during prolonged activities with a flexed wrist such as driving or typing. As carpal tunnel progresses, hand weakness and coordination problems with motor activity may develop.
How do you treat carpal tunnel?
The simplest treatment is wrist bracing. This is an easy solution that can significantly improve night time symptoms. If numbness persists, it’s recommended to get an electromyography (EMG) to further assess the nerve. An EMG is an electrodiagnostic medicine technique for evaluating and recording the electrical activity produced by muscles.
Depending on the EMG results, continued bracing, steroid injection or surgery may be recommended.
What are common questions patients ask about carpal tunnel?
How long is the recovery time after a carpal tunnel surgery?
Night time pain usually resolves almost immedi- ately. Typically, the skin heals by two weeks when the sutures are removed.
There may be some soreness in the palm for six to eight weeks, but most light activities are tolerable after two weeks.
How long does it take for the numbness to go away?
The numbness takes a variable amount of time to resolve. In mild cases, the sensation may improve right away. In more moderate cases in which the nerve has been compressed for a long time, the resolution of numbness takes longer.
The nerve may continue to heal anywhere from one to one and a half years after surgery. In severe cases, the numbness may not resolve. However, surgery is still needed to prevent loss of muscle function in the thumb and worsening numbness.
When can I drive after having carpal tunnel syndrome surgery?
It’s recommended to wait until the skin is healed and the person is off pain medication before driving. This typically takes 10 to 14 days, but this does not guarantee that your reaction time will be normal with the hand that is healing.
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