Your hands are your gateway to explore the world. So when everyday movements like holding a utensil or typing on a keyboard are painful, every aspect of your life is affected. This is exactly what people with carpal tunnel syndrome experience every day. But they don’t have to with the surgical and nonsurgical treatments available, according to Edward Marcoski, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Adventist La Grange Memorial and Adventist Hinsdale Hospitals.
It’s all in the wrist
Your carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm side of your wrist. This tunnel protects the median nerve that travels to your hand and fingers. Inflammatory conditions, repetitive movements like driving or typing and wrist injuries can compress the nerve and cause numbness, tingling or pain in the hand and fingers.
Because carpal tunnel syndrome is a progressive condition, pain and hand weakness can occur if it is left untreated. According to Dr. Marcoski, patients with more severe cases may not even be able to button up their shirt or feel their hands while combing their hair. “This is not only a quality of life issue but a safety and function concern as well,” he says. “Treatment allows patients to get back to work and sleep peacefully at night. It makes a huge difference.”
Comprehensive treatment options
An accurate diagnosis is the best way to determine the right treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. X-rays, MRI and ultrasound are used to rule out other causes of wrist pain. An electromyogram is often performed to measure muscle damage. In addition, a nerve conduction study helps physicians determine if anything is blocking nerve signals.
Once doctors diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, a variety of nonsurgical and surgical treatments are available to provide pain relief.
Nonsurgical treatments are often for those with mild symptoms or as a first line of treatment for more painful cases. These can include:
- Taking frequent rest breaks when using your hands
- Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen
- Applying cold packs to reduce inflammation
- Wrist splinting to relieve tingling and numbness
- Injections, such as cortisone, to decrease inflammation and swelling – which relieves pressure on the median nerve
Surgical treatments are the next option if less invasive solutions aren’t giving you long-term pain relief. The goal of surgery is to release the pressure on the median nerve by cutting the tight ligament above it. “With endoscopic surgery, the incision is smaller and patients recover faster,” Dr. Marcoski says.
These treatments improve a patient’s hand function, so they can enjoy everyday activities without pain. “We’re not treating a hand,” Dr. Marcoski says. “We’re treating the person.”
To decide which treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are best for you, schedule an appointment with one of our primary care physicians by calling 866-533-7968.