Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common problem that can cause numbness, pain and tingling in the wrist and hand.
In most patients CTS worsens over time, making early diagnosis and treatment important. Simple actions can be taken to alleviate pain and pressure in the early stages but leaving it untreated may lead to permanent nerve damage and worsening symptoms.
What is the carpal tunnel?
Within the wrist, there is a narrow passageway known as the carpal tunnel which is responsible for protecting the median nerve and flexor tendons which bend the fingers and thumb. The floor and sides of the tunnel are formed by small wrist bones called carpal bones. The roof is formed by a strong band of connective tissue known as the transverse carpal ligament. Together these all form rigid boundaries, allowing very little space for the carpal tunnel to stretch or increase in size.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused when one of the major nerves to the hand – the median nerve, is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist. This occurs when the tissues surrounding the carpal tunnel swell causing the passageway to become narrowed and putting pressure on the median nerve. This abnormal pressure can result in pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the hand.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
In most cases, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a combination of factors. Studies have indicated that women and older patients are more likely to develop CTS. Other risk factors include:
- Heredity. When it comes to the actual anatomic structure and space around the nerve, carpal tunnel size may run in certain families.
- Repetitive hand use. The repetition of certain hand and wrist motions or activities over a prolonged period of time may aggravate the tendons in the wrist, causing swelling that places pressure on the nerve
- Hand and wrist position. Activities that involve extreme flexing or extending of the hand and writing for prolonged periods can increase nerve pressure
- Pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may cause swelling
- Health conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid gland imbalance can all cause carpal tunnel syndrome
- Anatomic factors. A wrist fracture, dislocation or arthritis that deformed the small bones in the wrist can compromise the space within the carpal tunnel
- Carpal tunnel syndrome affects women more commonly than men because women have a smaller carpal tunnel space
- Being obese is a significant risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome
- Workplace factors. It’s possible that working with vibrating tools or prolonged and repetitive wrist flexing may create harmful pressure on the median nerve
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
In most cases, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms begin gradually with no specific injury. Some patients experience the coming and going of symptoms initially but as it worsens, these symptoms may occur more frequently or persist for longer periods of time. Because most people sleep with their wrists bent, night-time symptoms are also very coming, often awakening the patient from sleep. These symptoms include:
- Numbness, tingling, burning and pain, mostly in the thumb, index, and middle fingers
- Occasional shock-like sensations that radiate to the thumb, index, and middle fingers
- Weakness and clumsiness in the hand that makes it difficult to perform fine movements such as buttoning your clothes
- Dropping things—due to weakness, numbness, or a loss of awareness of where your hand is in space
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome
The common conservative treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are activity modification, bracing, and physical therapy. Sometimes, this is all that is needed to improve the symptoms.
Other common treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome involve steroid injections or ultimately surgery to reduce nerve pinching by cutting ligaments in the wrist. Repetitive steroid injections can actually weaken the surrounding tissue and expose the patient to potentially harmful side effects. The surgery directly impacts the stability of the wrist and can lead to the formation of scar tissue which can compress the nerve again.
At Atlantic Joint and Spine we use Regenexx treatments as an outpatient procedure. Using image guidance, we can inject a custom concentration of your body’s own natural healing agents into the exact areas of the nerve impingement to loosen the pinching and restore function. Best of all, your downtime will be a fraction of surgery and little to no time off work. This type of procedure will also avoid the negative consequences of steroids and has a duration of effect that is much longer than steroids.
The Regenexx family of non-surgical stem-cell and blood-platelet procedures are next-generation regenerative injection treatments for those who are suffering from pain or reduced range of motion due to carpal tunnel syndrome, basal joint/CMC arthritis, hand arthritis, or other injuries and conditions in the hand and wrist. The Regenexx treatment for injuries in the hand joints and wrist uses your own stem cells, blood platelets and/or grown factors to help repair damaged areas that are causing pain.
Call our patient care coordinators today to get started on your path to recovery.