Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a painful and, at best, limiting condition, affecting one or both hands, swelling in the Transverse Carpel Ligament, which runs across the wrist, compresses the Median Nerve of the hand, causing numbness, tingling and pain.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has found that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is more common in women then men. It can be related to health conditions such as diabetes or hypothyroidism. However, as was the case with my 2 hands, the problem usually comes from repetitive motions which, by themselves, amount to nothing. However, added together over years, motions such as keyboarding or martial arts training (my cause) give rise to the following symptoms which can (and did for me) lead to corrective surgery.
Numbness and tingling in the thumb and first 3 fingers, especially at night
My ring finger was not affected, but the thumb and first 2 fingers of both hands, especially my right, were painful, seriously tingly and without feeling. As I would remark to my husband, pain and numbness shouldn’t co-exist, but with nerve issues such as this, they do go together. Pain got progressively worse at night. I would get out of bed, shake it off and go back to sleep. The pain would return.
Patients report their hand pain refers up to the shoulder. My right arm and shoulder would absolutely burn, and ordinary chores such as vacuuming and mowing the lawn were torturous.
Grip weakens. I started dropping things such as cups and jars. My handwriting looked normal, but numbness forced me to loosen my normally tight pencil grip.
I was concerned about telling my doctor about the severity of my symptoms, but disruption of my sleep (and my husband’s) prompted me to pursue treatment. My physician referred me to a specialist at the Hand Center of Western New York. Then located at Millard Fillmore Hospital (Gates Circle) in Buffalo, I seen by Dr. James Kelly.
What Evaluation for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Involves
Tapping on the wrist
Dr. Kelly tapped on my wrists to see if he could produce the symptoms. Sure enough, he did.
Electrodes in my wrists sent current along the nerves. The response of the muscles in my hands were timed. Lengthened response time is diagnostic for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This testing was somewhat painful, but nailed my problem in the high moderate range. After a set of x-rays, I was scheduled for surgery.
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
–rest and avoidance of the offending activity if possible
–wrist splint at night
–NSAIDS for pain
–Injection of anti-inflammatory medication into the wrist
These things work well for some people. They did not help me. Surgery was the best option. Dr. Kelly injected my right wrist with Cortisone to give some temporary relief until the surgery.
Carpal Tunnel Release surgery, done with sedation and local anesthesia, is usually done by Endoscopy. The surgeon uses a small instrument, makes a small incision (1/2″) and cuts a notch in the Carpal Tunnel Ligament. This relieves the pressure on the Median Nerve. Before my 1/2 hour surgery, Dr. Kelly said I would notice symptom relief that evening. He was right. My husband took me home after 2 hours. I cut off my bandages at home on the third post-op day. I returned for surgery on my left hand 3 weeks later. Stitches came out in a week.
The surgeon prescribes several sessions of physical therapy. This assures good return of full function of the fingers. Activity should be light for 4 to 6 weeks.
After talking with others with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, I think my case was pretty typical and my treatment, outstanding. Results have lasted for several years. Healthy hands are a big part of overall health!