Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a compression neuropathy, or a pinching of the median nerve within the wrist. The carpal tunnel is a bony canal within the palm side aspect of the wrist that allows for the passage of the median nerve to the hand.
Pinching or compression of this nerve by the transverse carpal ligament sets into motion a progressively crippling disorder, which eventually results in wrist pain, numbness and tingling in the hand, pain that feels like “pins and needles,” especially at night, weakness in grip, and a feeling of uncoordination.
Who gets CTS?
This disabling syndrome occurs more often in women than men, by a ratio of 3 to 1, usually between the ages of 30 and 50 years. Also, CTS is seen more frequently in people who tend to do forceful repetitive types of work, such as grocery store checkers, assembly line workers, meat packers, typists, accountants, and writers, among many others. Most patients generally visit their doctor with these complaints, and the diagnosis is confirmed after physical examination and appropriate nerve testing.
How is CTS treated?
Treatment for CTS depends upon the stage of the disease. In the early stage, the syndrome can be reversible and is most often treated with appropriate modification in activities, a removable wrist brace, and anti-inflammatory medicines. In moderate stages of the disorder, especially if the numbness and pain continue in the wrist and hand, a cortisone injection into the carpal tunnel can be extremely beneficial. Surgical intervention in CTS is only indicated in those patients with whom non-operative treatment has failed to eliminate their symptoms. In patients with advanced disease, and especially in those who have profound weakness or muscle atrophy, surgical intervention should be done early. CTS should not be left untreated because it can eventually cause permanent nerve damage.
A common treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome is a carpal tunnel release.