What happens with CTS?
In simple terms, carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS is prolonged pressure on the nerves in the wrist. At the base of the hand, there is a sheath of ligaments and tendons called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel and branches off to most of the fingers in the hand. If the carpal tunnel becomes inflamed, the swelling presses on the median nerve. This can cause pain, numbness, some tingling, and swelling in the hand, wrist, and fingers.
Taking carpal tunnel treatment seriously
There are a few non-surgical options to treat CTS. CTS patients often benefit from rest, physical therapy, and over-the-counter medication. Further treatments include ice, wrist splints, and ergonomic adjustments. Treating underlying conditions may also help, as carpal tunnel syndrome is not limited to workers. Persons with diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis are also at risk. Consistent efforts bring positive results. However, pain may then need a more robust approach. Joint injections are a powerful, effective non-surgical option.
A shot to the joint
A joint injection is a minimally invasive procedure to relieve pain. A family physician can perform the procedure, which takes less than 30 minutes. The doctor uses a needle and syringe with a combination of anesthetic and corticosteroids. The patient then places the affected hand on a sterilized surface with the palm facing upward. The doctor then administers the shot just off the middle of the wrist. Joint injections have a 63% success rate for several months. But is this enough?
It may be time for surgery
In severe cases, joint injections may only bring temporary relief or no relief at all. Non-surgical treatments can fail if the patient has had pain for years. Furthermore, if left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can weaken the hand and cause a loss of feeling. This weakens grip strength and makes lifting objects difficult. At this point, CTS is affecting the quality of life. So all parties involved need to decide whether surgery is the right step.
Small incisions, major results
With surgery, the goal is to remove some of the ligaments pressing on the median nerve. In the past, carpal tunnel surgery was an open procedure. The doctor would make a large incision at the palm near the wrist. Now, most doctors use a minimally invasive procedure. Two small incisions help access the carpal tunnel and remove the dangerous ligaments. With proper post-surgery care, the patient should expect improvement within 8 weeks. Full recovery could take several months up to one year.
Beware the risks with your wrist
Deciding on surgery is a difficult decision as there are risks with any surgical procedure. And while there is an over 90% success rate, there is no guarantee that surgery will work. For instance, if the cause comes down to another condition, that condition must be addressed first. However, most patients are satisfied with the results. A combination of physical therapy and lifestyle changes helps with healing and long-term outcomes.
Give your carpal tunnel a helping hand
Hands play a vital part in almost all activities. Overuse or underlying conditions can cause CTS, and the pain can affect the quality of life. Joint injections are a powerful non-surgical tool that can bring relief for several months. However, in severe cases, surgery is the best option. Speak with a doctor about chronic wrist pain to figure out which procedure is the right step.