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carpal tunnel syndrome

Denver Hand Doctors Help Patients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

The Denver hand doctors at Advanced Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists see carpal tunnel syndrome affect many people each year. Carpal tunnel syndrome often causes discomfort and impacts daily activities. Understanding its symptoms, how it’s diagnosed, and wrist pain treatment options can help people who are suffering get relief and determine if they need to see a hand doctor. Let’s take a look at carpal tunnel syndrome, from recognizing the symptoms to knowing when surgery might be necessary and what to expect during recovery.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from your forearm into the palm of your hand, becomes compressed at the wrist. This nerve passes through a narrow passageway made up of bones and ligaments known as the carpal tunnel. When this tunnel becomes too narrow, it can pinch the nerve, leading to pain and other symptoms.

How to Recognize Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome typically develop gradually and can vary in intensity. Common signs include:

Tingling or Numbness: You might feel a tingling sensation or even numbness in your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. This sensation can come and go and is often worse at night.

Pain: Pain may radiate from the wrist up the arm or down to the fingers. It can be severe enough to wake you from sleep.

Weakness: You may experience weakness in your hand and a tendency to drop objects due to reduced grip strength.

If you notice these symptoms, it’s essential to consult with an orthopedic hand and wrist specialist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?

The Denver hand doctors at Advanced Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists will perform a thorough evaluation to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. Here’s what to expect during the diagnosis process:

Medical History: Your specialist will ask about your symptoms, when they started, and any activities that may worsen them. They will also inquire about any underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis.

Physical Examination: During the physical exam, the specialist will test the sensation in your fingers and the strength of the muscles in your hand. They may perform specific maneuvers, such as tapping on the median nerve or bending your wrist, to see if they trigger symptoms.

Imaging and Nerve Tests: In some cases, the specialist might order imaging tests like an X-ray to rule out other conditions. Nerve conduction studies and electromyography (EMG) can also help assess the electrical activity of your muscles and the speed of nerve signals.

When is Surgery Necessary to Resolve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The Denver hand doctors at Advanced Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists often pursue non-surgical solutions before recommending surgery and many people with carpal tunnel syndrome can manage their symptoms this way.  However, surgery might be necessary if:

Non-Surgical Treatments Fail: When treatments like wrist splints, anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections don’t provide sufficient relief.

Symptoms are Severe: If you have constant numbness, significant pain, or muscle weakness that interferes with daily activities.

Nerve Damage is Evident: If tests show significant nerve damage or muscle wasting, surgery may be required to prevent further deterioration.

What to Expect with Carpal Tunnel Surgery

If your orthopedic specialist recommends surgery, carpal tunnel release surgery is a common procedure performed to alleviate the pressure on the median nerve. Here’s what it involves:

The surgery can be done using two methods: open release or endoscopic release. In open-release surgery, the surgeon makes an incision in the palm of your hand to cut the carpal ligament and enlarge the carpal tunnel. In endoscopic surgery, the surgeon makes one or two smaller incisions and uses a tiny camera to guide the procedure.

Recovery times can vary, but most people experience significant relief from symptoms shortly after the procedure. Initially, you might experience some soreness or swelling at the surgical site. Your orthopedic surgeon will provide instructions on how to care for your hand and wrist, including exercises to improve strength and flexibility.

Post-Surgery Care and Recovery

After surgery, it’s crucial to follow your surgeon’s guidelines for a smooth recovery. This is an important partnership between you and your orthopedic surgeon, and can include:

Wound Care: Keep the surgical site clean and dry. Follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding bandage changes and wound care.

Activity: Avoid heavy lifting and repetitive wrist movements initially. Gradually resume activities as advised by your surgical and orthopedic care teams.

Physical Therapy: Your surgeon may recommend physical therapy to help restore strength and range of motion in your hand and wrist. This is an essential part of the recovery process. Your orthopedic team will offer great expertise and support, but they also need your participation and commitment to get the most out of it!

Follow-Up Appointments: Attend all follow-up appointments to ensure proper healing and to address any concerns.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can significantly impact your quality of life, but with the right diagnosis and treatment, you can find relief. Recognizing the symptoms early and consulting with an orthopedic specialist is the first step.

Whether through non-surgical methods or surgery, effective treatments are available to help you regain function and comfort in your hand and wrist. If you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome, and it’s impacting your day-to-day life, make an appointment with one of our Denver hand doctors today.

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