Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve, which extends down the inside of your arm from your forearm to the palm of your hand, becomes compressed or pinched where it passes through your wrist.
At your wrist, the median nerve runs through the carpal tunnel, a narrow, rigid passageway of ligaments and bones. The carpal tunnel also houses the tendons that help you bend and extend your fingers. When these tendons are irritated, swollen, or inflamed, the tunnel narrows and compresses the median nerve, resulting in CTS.
Early signs of CTS usually include intermittent tingling or numbness in your thumb, index, and middle fingers. You may also experience pain or discomfort in your wrist or through the palm of your hand. Other common symptoms include:
As CTS worsens, you may experience numbness or tingling in your arm, wrist, hand, or fingers that wakes you up at night and makes you feel as if you need to shake out your hand. Left untreated, CTS can ultimately cause the muscles at the base of your thumb to waste away.
No single factor causes CTS; rather, the condition usually develops as a result of several risk factors coming together. Women are three times more likely than men to develop CTS because their wrists/carpal tunnels are smaller. Other major risk factors include:
Any injury or condition that affects your wrist, including a bone fracture or arthritis, can contribute to the development of CTS. Diabetes and other chronic illnesses associated with nerve damage can also lead to CTS.
Treating CTS as early as possible is important in preventing long-term nerve damage. Initial treatment may include:
If these early interventions don’t work, you may be a candidate for surgery. Carpal tunnel surgery is a type of peripheral nerve surgery that’s usually done on an outpatient basis.
Whenever possible, Dr. Melamed treats severe CTS through minimally invasive endoscopic surgery, using a small incision and tiny instruments. Compared to open surgery, this method helps minimize discomfort, reduce potential complications, and promote faster healing.