Carpal tunnel syndrome affects 4 to 10 million people in the United States, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Fortunately, there are effective ways to treat and prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel
Prevention is always the best medicine, especially when it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome. Since carpal tunnel often occurs as the result of repetitive movements at work, the workplace is the perfect place to prevent carpal tunnel. While at work, try the following:
- Perform stretching exercises
- Take frequent rest breaks
- Wear splints that hold your wrists straight
- Maintain good body posture
- Maintain proper wrist position
- Wear fingerless gloves that keep your hands warm and flexible
Employers can improve workplace ergonomics to reduce the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome in workers. Redesigning workplace tools, tool handles and tasks may improve worker wrist positions. Rotating employees through various job positions reduces the time any one employee performs a repetitive task.
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Treatment under medical supervision should begin as early as possible. A hand doctor will first diagnose and treat any underlying conditions, such as arthritis and diabetes.
Early treatment usually includes resting the hand and wrist for at least two weeks; immobilization and splinting is often effective. You should avoid any activities that worsen the symptoms. Use cool packs to reduce swelling and inflammation.
A hand specialist will likely try non-surgical treatments first. In some circumstances, a hand doctor might suggest non-prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, to relieve pain and swelling. Oral diuretics, commonly known as “water pills,” also reduce inflammation.
Prednisone or lidocaine injections or pills relieve pressure on the affected nerve to reduce pain and other symptoms of carpal tunnel.
After symptoms have subsided, stretching exercises improve function and reduce the risk for further symptoms.
Hand Surgery for Carpal Tunnel
Hand surgery, known as carpal tunnel release, may be necessary in severe cases or in cases where symptoms last for six months or more. Carpal tunnel release is one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes.
Hand surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome involves severing the band of tissue around the wrist to relieve pressure on the median nerve. The procedure requires only local anesthesia and usually does not require an overnight stay in a hospital.
There are two types of hand surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome: open release surgery and endoscopic surgery. Open release is the traditional surgery for this syndrome, where the hand doctor makes a 2-inch incision in the wrist to cut the ligament. Endoscopic surgery uses tiny cameras and tools inserted through two tiny incisions in the wrist and palm.