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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, more commonly known as CTS, is a condition that results from the median nerve being pressed as it runs through the wrist. It is a very common condition and often causes a lot of pain and numbness in the hand and arm. It has been found that most of the patients feel the condition worsening with time. Therefore, it is extremely important to diagnose it and consequently, treat it as soon as possible. If left unattended for a long time, the symptoms can get worse and cause damage to the nerves.
Women are three times more likely to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome than men. Also, it is mostly diagnosed between the age of 30 years and 60 years. Since jobs these days, especially desk jobs, require constant movement of the wrist, it is very common amongst people who do jobs that require a lot of typing, work in manufacturing, are assembly line workers, and etc.
Although the commonality of this disease is discussed in detail above, it is important to consider who can be at a greater risk of contracting carpal tunnel syndrome.
Pregnancy: Hormonal changes in pregnancy can cause the muscles and joints to swell causing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Genetics: This is a common factor in developing the condition. The carpal tunnel in the wrist may be smaller in some people while bigger in others. Hence it may limit or restrict the space available for the median nerve. The bone structure is an inherited factor and thus developing carpal tunnel syndrome can become more likely due to genetics.
High Blood Pressure: If you are suffering from high blood pressure for a very long time, you’re more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
Diabetes: Most of the times complications due to diabetes can also cause a person to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: This particular health condition causes problems in the joints and so it can lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Constant Use of the Hand: Repeating the same hand and wrist motions for long periods of time and not taking breaks can increase pressure on the nerves. This plays an important role in worsening the carpal tunnel syndrome.
Wrong Positioning of the Wrist: Performing tasks that require a lot of hand use and not being able to position the wrist properly may cause swelling in the nerves.
Age: With age, the joints, nerves, and muscles become weak. If not taken care of they can cause conditions like the carpal tunnel syndrome.
Physical Activity: Lack of physical activity and exercise is becoming one of the major causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may include the following:
It is important to remember that the symptoms for carpal tunnel syndrome appear slowly and worsen with time. Many patients fail to pay much attention to it when it first starts. Thus it is important to bear in mind that the sooner a doctor is consulted, the better it is for the patient.
The doctor is likely to perform a complete physical exam and go through the patient’s medical history. The doctors often check the movements to see how the patient responds. A number of physical tests are performed to see if the patient is suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. The doctor may press the median nerve to see if it causes pain or numbness. They may bend your wrist in different positions to see how you respond and if it causes pain. They also check if your muscles are weak by pressing the base of the thumb.
Other than these, the doctor may use electrophysiological tests to see the condition of the median nerve.
Nerve Conduction Study: This is used to check if the nerves in the arm and hand are responding to signal effectively.
Electromyogram (EGM): This technique measures the electrical activity of the muscles. It shows if there is any muscular or nervous damage.
Ultrasound: This helps present a clear picture of the bone and the muscles surrounding it.
X-rays: X-rays help determine if there are any fractures or ligament injuries that might be compressing the nerve.
MRI Scans: MRIs can help doctors get a clear picture of the soft tissue near the area of concern. It helps them pinpoint the main cause of the condition.
Although it takes time, carpal tunnel syndrome is likely to worsen with time if left untreated. For this reason, it is highly important that a doctor is consulted as soon as the symptoms start becoming evident. The earlier this condition is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat it.
There are a number of nonsurgical approaches that can be used to treat this problem. The first and foremost is wearing a brace. Wearing a brace during the day and especially at night helps keep the wrist straight. It reduces the pressure on the wrist and helps relieve symptoms. Doctors can also prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to help reduce inflammation. Another way to treat is to reduce physical activity, especially one that requires patients to perform repetitive tasks. It is often suggested that small breaks are taken in between work to help relax the muscles and nerves. Exercises are also prescribed that can help relieve pressure from the wrist. If it has been triggered due to psychological tension including stress or anxiety, then doctors may recommend yoga.
Yoga and meditation help relax the mind and body as well as the muscles. Stretching may also be a form of physical therapy that doctors might suggest to cater to the symptoms caused by this condition.
If, however, the condition has worsened and symptoms are getting severe, your doctor might recommend surgery. The surgery for this particular condition is known as the carpal tunnel release in which the aim is to release pressure from the nerve to avoid irreversible damage. It is used to increase the size of the carpal tunnel so that there is more room for the median nerve. So that the median nerve is not compressed and this does not swell up due to lack of space.
R3 Stem Cell has achieved Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval for the investigation of regenerative therapies for orthopedic conditions, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome . The specifics of the study can be seen here on ClinicalTrials.gov: