Did you know that Australia experienced an epidemic in 1980? It was an epidemic of work-related arm and hand pain. Soon the term “repetitive strain injury” became part of our vocabulary, and a spotlight was focused on a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. In the ankles and feet, this condition is known as tarsal tunnel syndrome.
I’d like to shed more light on the subject for you today.
Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder of the hand. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include everything from simple numbness to pins and needles and debilitating pain, particularly at night.
“Basically I thought I was having a stroke last week. I really, really thought I was. It was 2.30 in the morning and I woke up and my hand started to go numb. The whole entire thing went numb. It was dead, I couldn’t move it. ‘ – Actress Jessica Alba, before realising she had carpal tunnel syndrome.
CTS develops as the result of pressure on nerves that run through the wrist. In the last century, carpal tunnel syndrome was frequently a problem for people who used typewriters. It also troubled athletes such as tennis players who over-use their wrists.
Today, despite ergonomically designed machines and tools and new findings about the true causes of this condition, carpal tunnel syndrome continues to plague thousands of workers, sidelining them from their jobs, sometimes for good.
Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Sadly, fear of testing keeps many people from seeking the help they need. It’s such a shame. Surgeons like myself who are experienced in treating carpal tunnel syndrome will likely base a diagnosis on your history of hand symptoms and a painless physical examination, which includes:
- Checking for decreased feeling in your fingers.
- Checking for muscle weakness in your hand.
- Checking your thumb muscles for signs of wasting.
- Checking your wrists for signs of arthritis.
The examination includes tests that assess whether the nerves in your wrist are working well. The Tinel’s test is done by tapping over the median nerve at the wrist. In Phalen’s manoeuvre, the wrist is flexed for 30 to 60 seconds. I may also check to see whether fluid is accumulating in different parts of your body, such as your feet, legs, and especially your hands, where extra fluid can increase pressure on the carpal tunnel.
If you experience discomfort, numbness or tingling during these tests, it’s a signal to me that the median nerve in the carpal tunnel may be compressed and that we need to find a way to ease your pain.
Hand Surgery to Repair Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Before I recommend hand surgery to my patients, I generally suggest a non-surgical treatment protocol involving rest, injections, splinting, and medication. In the event that those strategies prove unsuccessful, hand surgery can be enormously productive in relieving the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss any discomfort you may be experiencing. Prior to scheduling a consultation, we ask that you talk or meet with your GP to ensure that the pain you are suffering is not symptomatic of an underlying health problem such as diabetes.
Would You Like to Know More?
If you have questions about carpal tunnel syndrome, hand surgery, or anything mentioned in this post, please call us at the Form and Face on 1800 376 677 or ask us a question using the form below.