I have a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome. So far, I've just been monitoring it. I haven't actually done anything to treat it. Should I?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common problem affecting the hand and wrist. Symptoms begin when the median nerve gets squeezed inside the carpal tunnel of the wrist. The carpal tunnel is an opening through the wrist to the hand that is formed by the bones of the wrist on one side and the transverse carpal ligament on the other. (Ligaments connect bones together.) This opening forms the carpal tunnel.
Any condition that decreases the size of the carpal tunnel or enlarges the tissues inside the tunnel can produce the symptoms of CTS. This syndrome has received a lot of attention in recent years because of suggestions that it may be linked with occupations that require repeated use of the hands, such as typing on a computer keyboard or doing assembly work. Actually, many people develop this condition regardless of the type of work they do.
Because a nerve is involved, careful monitoring is important. Compression on the median nerve for any reason can eventually cause permanent damage to the nerve. Treatment to reverse this compression and thereby reduce symptoms of wrist/hand pain, numbness, and/or tingling is advised.
Studies show that untreated or ill-treated (wrong treatment approach) carpal tunnel syndrome can get worse over time. Permanent loss of sensation and muscle strength can occur. The loss of grip and pinch strength is a potentially very disabling impairment.
If you are self-monitoring without the benefit of an orthopedic surgeon or hand specialist to guide you, it might be a good idea to start seeing someone with this type of medical background. Waiting too long for treatment may not be in your best interest.
Michael Warren Keith, MD, et al. AAOS Clinical Practice Guideline Summary. Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. June 2009. Vol. 17. No. 6. Pp. 397-405.
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