Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


The carpal tunnel is a narrow tunnel in the wrist formed by the carpal (wrist) bones and a strong band of connective tissue called the transverse carpal ligament. The median nerve, which controls feeling in the thumb, as well as the index, middle, and ring fingers, runs through the carpal tunnel. Flexor tendons also run through the carpal tunnel, allowing the thumb and fingers to bend.

When the swelling of tissues narrows the carpal tunnel, the median nerve may not have enough space. This can lead to a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome, which may cause pain and numbness in the affected hand.

Causes and Symptoms

Several factors may contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people have smaller carpal tunnels than others, and this trait can be hereditary. Age is also a factor; older people are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Pregnancy-related hormone changes can play a role in the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, as can medical conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance. Sometimes, a patient may develop carpal tunnel syndrome over time, simply by the use of their hands. Often, carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of a combination of these factors.

The onset of symptoms is usually gradual. The most common symptoms are numbness, weakness, tingling, and pain in the hand. You may feel a sensation similar to an electric shock in the thumb and first three fingers. It is also common to feel pain that travels up the arm toward the shoulder. In addition, you may experience symptoms when holding something.

Initially, symptoms may come and go, but can become constant as time goes on. It is common to have symptoms at night, because people often sleep with their wrists curled. In some cases, it may be difficult to complete tasks like buttoning a shirt or carrying an item due to a feeling of weakness in the hand.

Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In most cases, treatment is necessary to stop the progression of carpal tunnel syndrome. If you begin treatment early on, you can often avoid the need for surgery.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Unless carpal tunnel symptoms are severe, we treat patients with nonsurgical methods first. Nonsurgical treatment often involves modifying or avoiding activities that cause symptoms to worsen. A brace or splint may be worn during these activities, as well as at night, to keep the wrist in a neutral position. Nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can help with pain, and corticosteroid injections may also help to relieve symptoms.

Surgical Treatment

If nonsurgical treatment does not relieve symptoms, or if there is severe numbness and/or weakness, surgery may be considered. Carpal tunnel surgery can often be done on an outpatient basis with local anesthesia. During the procedure, your surgeon will make a cut in your palm and divide the transverse carpal ligament. This decreases pressure on the median nerve by increasing the size of the carpal tunnel. The incision is then closed; as the ligament heals, it will grow across the divide.

This procedure may also be done endoscopically. An endoscope is a small camera that can be inserted into the incision, allowing the surgeon to perform the procedure through a smaller incision than the more traditional surgical method. We offer both traditional and endoscopic carpal tunnel procedures to fit the needs of our patients.

After surgery, you will need to elevate your hand and move your fingers frequently to prevent stiffness and reduce swelling. It is common to experience minor soreness in the palm for several months after surgery. You can use your hand normally soon after surgery. Your doctor will determine whether any activity restrictions are necessary.

Outcomes may vary for each individual patient, but most patients find that their symptoms improve after surgery.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery in Beaumont, TX

Beaumont Bone & Joint Institute offers a wide variety of orthopaedic treatment options, including carpal tunnel treatment. Our skilled physicians offer both surgical and nonsurgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, and most of the services you need can be handled on-site. If you have any questions about carpal tunnel treatment, or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, please contact our Beaumont office at (409) 838-0346 or our Port Arthur office at (409) 729-5633