Where is my carpal tunnel located?
Turn your hand so it’s facing you and bend your wrist. Your hand will come toward you. Your carpal tunnel is found in the area where your wrist bends.
What exactly is carpal tunnel syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is an inflexible, narrow space located on the palm side of the wrist. The median nerve and several tendons pass through this small space. A ligament forms the tunnel’s ceiling, while a collection of wrist bones form the other three sides. Swelling can make the space even tighter for the median nerve, and carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the nerve is pinched. This can result in numbness, tingling, pain, and occasional weakness in the hand because that nerve is responsible for sensory feedback from the palm side of the thumb, index, middle, and ring finger. It also controls several smaller muscles of the hand and, if entrapped for long enough, can become permanently damaged.
Why does carpal tunnel syndrome happen?
We don’t always know exactly why it happens. Many times it can be a combination of reasons. Research tells us you are more likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome if you:
- Are pregnant (from fluid retention)
- Had a wrist dislocation or fracture
- Have arthritis
- Have a thyroid condition
- Have diabetes
What are common symptoms?
In the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome, symptoms typically appear gradually and are inconsistent. Numbness, tingling, and a burning sensation in the hand and fingers are common. Symptoms may become worse with specific activities but get better when the activities are stopped. In more advanced cases, numbness and tingling are unrelenting and cause grip weakness.
What are my treatment options?
Once it’s confirmed you have carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor will explain all the treatment options that will be most successful for your unique situation. Together, you and your doctor will create an individualized treatment plan for your specific needs. The good news is that symptoms may often be relieved without surgery.
Your custom treatment plan may include:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
- Cortisone injections to reduce swelling
What can I expect the results to be after treatment?
Everyone responds to treatment differently. The primary focus is to reduce swelling in the wrist around the nerve and decrease the pressure placed on it. The goal of treatment is to decrease or eliminate your symptoms and get your function back.
How long until I’m better?
There is a broad range of severity of this condition and recovery time varies. Talk to your doctor about what you can expect with your specific situation. When surgery is recommended, it usually takes several months to get your strength back to normal.
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