When people hear about orthopedic injuries, they usually think about knees, shoulders, and hips. Hand injuries send a million workers to ERs each year. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 110,000 lost-time hand injuries annually. Injuries to your hand or wrist can be debilitating to your every day function. The Hand Doctor is In… Blog series was created to provide you with information about common hand and wrist conditions/ injuries.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is by far the most common problem that I see in my hand surgery practice. It is caused by compression of the median nerve at the level of the wrist. Symptoms include:
- Pain in the hands
- Symptoms are usually intermittent and often worse at night or with the hands elevated.
In severe cases, loss of sensation and weakness can result. Diagnosis is based on history, physical exam and often a nerve study (EMG).
Most cases of CTS are idiopathic, meaning that the cause is unknown or arises spontaneously. However, there are certain medical conditions that make someone more likely to develop it. These include diabetes, thyroid disease, inflammatory arthritis, and obesity. It is also more common in women and with increasing age. There is not good literature to support the notion that it is caused by repetitive activity or typing, although these may worsen symptoms.
The good thing about carpal tunnel syndrome is that it is a very treatable condition.
For mild or early symptoms, splinting of the wrist at night can be very effective. As the symptoms worsen or become more chronic, cortisone injections or surgery become options. You definitely do not want to ignore your symptoms if they become constant or are associated with loss of sensation or weakness.
Carpal tunnel surgery is an outpatient surgery that can be done under sedation or sometimes just local anesthesia. The results are generally excellent with very low complication risk. You have use of your hand for light activity starting the day of surgery although heavy lifting or gripping may take up to a month.
Dr. Klinefelter is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery with an emphasis on complex hand and wrist injuries. Other conditions treated by Dr. Klinefelter include arthritis, ganglion cysts, Boxer’s fracture, and sprains and strains of the hand & wrist.
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