April 26, 2019
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Michael Cunningham, M.D. contributes to topics such as Orthopedic Surgery.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful condition that is caused when inflammation puts pressure on the median nerve.
Located on the same side of your hand as your palm, the median nerve delivers sensation to fingers as well as impulses to the muscle leading to the thumb.
When the wrist swells as a result of overuse, it can compress the nerve. In addition to pain, it can cause tingling, weakness or numbness near the thumb.
The common cause of the inflammation in the wrist can be due to an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid dysfunction. Obstructed blood flow can also cause inflammation.
CTS can be worsened by repetitive tasks, such as the position you’re in when typing or using a computer mouse. Not doing those activities can relieve symptoms of CTS, but because the activities are required for work, many people cannot afford to take significant breaks.
“There are other ways to relieve carpal tunnel,” says Michael Cunningham, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Bayshore Medical Center. “Some treatments deliver a short-term reprieve, but permanent relief for severe pain usually requires surgery.”
That said, there are a few ways to relieve discomfort from carpal tunnel if it flares up from time to time.
- Wear a splint. A splint can hold your wrist in a way that relieves pressure on the median nerve. Sleeping in the splint is a good way to hold the wrist in a proper position for a substantial amount of time, and it means you do not have to wear the splint during the day.
- Add warmth. Fingerless gloves or warm water can be another way to relieve carpal tunnel pain, as light warmth can help during regular activities.
- Ice it. Putting your hand in an ice bath or applying an ice pack to the area of pain can offer temporary relief, as it can lower inflammation.
- Give your wrists a workout. While you should minimize flexion to reduce carpal tunnel pain, moving the hand and wrist can help. One carpal tunnel exercise that works is to make a fist and then slide your fingers until they are open. When you repeat the movement five to 10 times, it can alleviate pressure on your wrist.
- Raise the wrist. CTS that is caused by a fracture, pregnancy or other issues related to fluid retention can be alleviated by raising hands. You may be able to elevate your hands and wrists more comfortably at home.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can provide short-term relief from CTS.
- Steroid injections. Injections of cortisone can be very helpful in treatment.
- Consider surgery. Severe cases of carpal tunnel, or those that are less responsive to the aforementioned treatments may be best off treated by surgery. Surgery involves cutting the ligament pressing on the median nerve.
If you’re experiencing significant carpel tunnel syndrome, it might be time to see an orthopedic surgeon. To make an appointment with Dr. Cunningham, call 732-264-5454. To find a provider near you, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.