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Published on November 18, 2013

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


When it comes to aches and pains in the body, most of us go straight for the quick fix, such as taking a couple of ibuprofen or icing the area. For those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, however, it can become frustrating when quick fixes don’t work or last long enough. But there are ways you can alleviate symptoms for the long term.

Millions of Americans suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs when pressure on the median nerve in your wrist causes pain and numbness in your hands and fingers. While pressure can occur for a variety of reasons, such as tendon swelling, obesity, diabetes, and pregnancy, carpal tunnel syndrome can also occur in those who repeatedly make the same hand or wrist movements. Those who smoke or have had a previous wrist injury are also more likely to experience hand and wrist pain.

So how do you know if you have carpal tunnel syndrome and not arthritis? Most patients with this particular condition often feel tingling, weakness or pain in the thumb and first three fingers, which are all connected by the median nerve (the pinky is connected by a different nerve). You may also experience pain between your hand and elbow. To better diagnosis your condition, you doctor may also recommended an X-ray exam or a nerve conduction study to rule out any other health issue.   

If you have carpal tunnel, you can find relief for your pain by:

  • Starting treatment immediately. This gives you a better chance of preventing symptoms from appearing. It can also prevent permanent nerve damage.
  • Ceasing activities that trigger pain. This might include typing frequently on a computer keyboard, gardening, knitting, etc. If there are some activities you can’t stop, try taking breaks to relieve the stress on your wrists.
  • Making necessary lifestyle changes to alleviate/prevent carpal tunnel symptoms. These include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, quitting smoking and managing chronic health problems.
  • Seeing a hand therapist. Physical and occupational therapists specializing in the treatment of hands will often use techniques such as ultrasound, stretching, and range-of-motion exercises to relieve pressure on the median nerve.
  • Learning new ways to do things, such as typing properly and using your hand instead of only your fingers to hold objects.
  • Wearing a wrist splint during the night to keep your wrist in a neutral position, which is straight or slightly bent.
  • Icing your wrist for 10 to 15 minutes, one to two times an hour if you’re experiencing severe pain or numbness.
  • Taking ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
  • Seeing an orthopedic, hand or plastic surgeon to consider surgery, if pain becomes debilitating and unbearable. During this procedure, the surgeon will cut the ligament at the top of the carpal tunnel to make more room and relieve pressure on the median nerve.

Crozer-Keystone’s orthopedics and plastic surgery specialists work “hand in hand” with the experts at The Philadelphia Hand Center to bring you the kind of care that is second to none. All in a familiar and convenient setting that’s close to home. To learn more about our team of hand specialists as well as our comprehensive hand and wrist services, locations and more, call 1-855-CK-HAND (1-855-254-4263) or visit http://hand.crozerkeystone.org.

To learn more about the specialized hand therapy services at Crozer-Keystone Health System, call 1-877-CK-MOTION (1-877-256-6846).

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