Warning Signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a cumulative trauma condition that occurs when there is pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. This nerve, which passes through the length of the arm and an area of the wrist known as the carpal tunnel, connects to the hand and is responsible for finger movement and sensibility. When the carpal tunnel swells, excessive pressure is applied to the median nerve and leads to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common overuse injuries and often occurs in people who use their hands a lot for work, sports or other activities. Diabetes, thyroid abnormalities and other medical problems can additionally lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Some pregnant women also experience this condition. Sometimes, however, the exact cause of carpal tunnel syndrome cannot be determined.

Symptoms of This Condition

Tingling, pain or weakness in the hand or wrist are some of the most common symptoms. Numbness may also be felt in the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers. Feelings of numbness may be especially prevalent when waking up in the morning or in the middle of the night. People who have carpal tunnel syndrome may also find themselves dropping things or performing clumsy motions with their hands.

Triggering Factors

In addition to the specific causes of carpal tunnel symptoms, certain factors can worsen its symptoms. Typing, driving and other activities that cause the wrist to bend often exacerbate this condition. Sleeping with a bent wrist position is another triggering factor. Some sufferers of carpal tunnel syndrome also say that their symptoms become more intense with high impact or vibration on the palm of the hand.

Non-Surgical Tips and Surgical Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Los Angeles board-certified plastic surgeon can recommend a treatment plan to resolve this medical condition. Anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to reduce swelling and alleviate symptoms. Patients may also be instructed to wear wrist splints at night to prevent the wrist from bending and thereby worsening symptoms. Stretching and other hand therapy exercises can sometimes be effective in treating this condition. Injections or surgery may be recommended if other treatments haven’t worked or in severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome.

411 on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that occurs when the median nerve located in the wrist becomes pinched. The median nerve, which provides feeling to the thumb and fingers, passes through a narrow passageway called the carpal tunnel. Certain health conditions and activities can cause swelling within the carpal tunnel that impinges on the median nerve.

Common Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In the early stages, symptoms typically include numbness, tingling, and burning sensations in the fingers and palm. The fingers may feel swollen even when there is no evidence of swelling. Initially, the symptoms may be worse at night since it is common to sleep with the wrists in a flexed position. Eventually, the symptoms may persist throughout the day to the point that it is difficult to grasp objects, make a fist, or perform other tasks requiring manual dexterity. When left untreated, the muscles located at the bottom of the thumb may atrophy and touch sensation may be lost.

How Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Develop?

Carpal tunnel can arise from a variety of factors and causes. In most instances, the condition is caused by a reduction in the amount of space within the tunnel itself rather than an issue with the median nerve. Trauma, thyroid problems, excess fluid retention, cysts, and rheumatoid arthritis can all cause inflammation within the carpal tunnel. The condition is also common in individuals who perform repetitive tasks with their hands and wrists or use vibrating tools, just as jackhammers.

What Does Diagnosis & Treatment Entail?

One of LA Hand Surgeon’s board-certified plastic hand surgeons and hand specialists can diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome by compiling a detailed medical and lifestyle history as well as using a variety of imaging, laboratory, and electrodiagnostic tests. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve the pressure on the median nerve.

Contact our office today to learn more about the surgical and non-surgical treatment options our plastic surgeons offer for carpal tunnel syndrome. Our team of board-certified plastic hand and reconstructive surgeons includes Dr. Arezou Yaghoubian, Dr. S. Daniel Golshani and Dr. James Coleman.

Ways to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Numbness and tingling in the thumb and fingers are often a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. The condition is common in individuals who perform repetitive actions using their hands and wrists. The median nerve that provides feeling to the thumbs and all of the fingers with the exception of the pinky finger, passes through a small tunnel of ligament and bone called the carpal tunnel. Repetitive motions can cause inflammation within the carpal tunnel to the point that it impinges upon the median nerve causing numbness and tingling. Click here to learn about other medical services our LA plastic hand surgeons offer including for cumulative trauma, tumors and masses, hand infections and more.

How You Can Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Although it may not be possible to avoid all activities that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, there are certain steps that can be taken to limit the stress on the wrists and hands that can exacerbate symptoms.

• Avoid using excessive pressure or force to perform activities. For example, use light keystrokes when typing instead of pounding the keyboard.

• Avoid tensing the hands or gripping objects too tightly.

• Take a break for 10 to 15 minutes each hour to rest and stretch the fingers and wrists.

• Try to keep the wrists in a neutral position instead of bent to reduce pressure on the median nerve.

• When possible, switch hands when performing tasks.

• Maintain good body posture since slouching can place strain on various muscles and nerves that can exacerbate wrist problems.

• Try to keep the wrists and hands warm to alleviate pain and stiffness.

Stretching Exercises for the Fingers and Wrists

The following stretching exercises can help release tension in the wrists and hands:

Start by making a fist and then fan the fingers out by stretching them as far as possible. Make a fist again and then slide the fingers up to point straight out. Repeat these exercises up to 10 times during each break.

For more information about carpal tunnel treatment options, contact our Beverly Hills practice to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified plastic and hand surgeon and carpal tunnel specialists.

Does Computer Use Create Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

We live in a society where we are exposed to computers at least once a day, spending anywhere from an hour to several hours in front of one. Your hands are constantly typing or operating the mouse to navigate your computer or the Internet. So the question becomes… does repetitive computer usage increase your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome?

The most obvious answer you may be thinking is, “well of course it does!”. The good news is that research suggests otherwise. A study was done on people who heavily used the computer, specifically the keyboard, everyday for at least 6-7 hours a day. The study contained a sample of 250 people where only 9 of them actually had carpal tunnel. The studies concluded that heavy computer usage is not correlated with an increased risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Individuals who are Susceptible to Carpal Tunnel

You may not develop carpal tunnel syndrome specifically, but it’s certainly possible that repetitive mouse and keyboard usage will result in some strain to your hands. 30% of the 250 people who were studied reported that they felt numbness or pins-and-needles in their hands; however, these same people did not meet the criteria to be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.

How to Use the Computer in a Safe Way to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Of course there is! Simple changes go a long way. You can place a rolled up towel in front of your keyboard to rest your hands on while you type. This will allow your fingers to perform most of the work. You can even find comfortable keyboard wrist supports online in different variations.

It also helps to have strengthened wrists. This can be done using a wrist grip for only a couple minutes a day. If you do not have a wrist grip, then a low weight dumbbell works too. Simply hold the dumbbell in your hand, keep your hand flat and use only your fingers to move it up and down. All it takes is a few minutes a day.

It’s the repetition of movement that will catch up to you. Take frequent small breaks throughout the day to let your wrists relax. Get up, walk around, and stretch for a bit.

Look into different mice options. Some mice are not as rough on your wrists and require little to no finger movement. A great example is a trackball mouse, which essentially require only your fingers to move the cursor around.

Ultimately, the best defense to carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist pain is to avoid computers altogether.