Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve is compressed as it travels through a narrow portion of the wrist. (This section is called the carpal tunnel.) Common symptoms include numbness and tingling in the fingers, as well as weakness of the thumb.
Many conditions can put a person at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome, including:
- Thyroid disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis (or other causes of wrist arthritis)
- Injury to the wrist, such as fracture or repetitive trauma (as seen with jackhammer operators)
Treatment options include:
- Wrist splints
It may be helpful to rest the wrist in a position that provides maximal space for the median nerve. Wrist splints are often worn only at night. This helps prevent bending the wrist during sleep. This bending may worsen the symptoms.
- Anti-inflammatory medications
These drugs can reduce inflammation in the wrist and provide pain relief.
- Cortisone injections
This medicine can reduce inflammation and swelling in the carpal tunnel. However, the improvement does not tend to last long.
A minor operation can relieve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome by providing the median nerve with more space. This treatment is usually considered only after other treatments have failed.
Reversing or treating any contributing conditions can also be helpful. For example, treating rheumatoid arthritis may prevent the worsening of symptoms or reduce existing symptoms. So can tightly controlling diabetes. And an ergonomic evaluation of your workspace may help. For example, your chair and desk can be positioned so you can avoid excessive wrist flexing or extension.
If symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are not well controlled, nerve injury may become permanent. So, see your doctor about your condition and review all of these treatment options.