OrthoVirginia Blog

Dr. Hepper - Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a pinched nerve at the wrist that causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand.  Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome will initially notice numbness and tingling in the hand with certain activities such as driving and talking on the phone.  As it progresses patients will often notice numbness and pain that awakens them at night.  Severe carpal tunnel syndrome can cause weakness of muscles in the hand.  Patients may have difficulty with fine motor tasks such as buttoning buttons and picking up pills.  Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by increased pressure on the median nerve at your wrist.  The cause of carpal tunnel is often unknown but can be related to other medical problems such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems and pregnancy.  Contrary to popular public perception, carpal tunnel syndrome has not been shown to be caused by typing on a keyboard.  If you are concerned that you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, you should be evaluated by a hand surgeon.  Usually a simple history and physical exam can make the diagnosis.  A hand surgeon may order a nerve test to confirm the diagnosis.   Mild carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated by simple measures such as wearing a splint while sleeping.  Other non-surgical treatments include steroid injections.  More severe carpal tunnel syndrome should be treated with surgery to release the pressure on the nerve and prevent possible permanent nerve damage.  Modern techniques allow hand surgeons to perform carpal tunnel surgery minimally invasively through a small incision in the wrist.  This can speed your recovery from surgery.  The surgery is outpatient and patients are allowed full use of their hand immediately.  Recovery typically takes 2 to 4 weeks.  To learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome and other common hand problems please visit my website at www.drhepper.com