Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when swelling of the connective tissue in the wrist causes compression of the median nerve. The median nerve is responsible for bringing sensation to the thumb and the first three fingers. The main cause of this syndrome is prolonged strain on the wrist such as typing, driving, or holding a phone. Other risk factors include excess swelling of the wrist or an underlying nerve issue.
The most common symptom is pain in the wrist or arm with numbness or tingling of the thumb and first three fingers. You may also experience weakness of the hand and decreased dexterity.
First, conservative treatment is recommended. Limiting movement of the wrist can help reduce inflammation. Using a wrist splint is encouraged to avoid prolonged flexion and extension of the wrist. Stretching the hands, wrists, and arms is also recommended.
If conservative treatments are unsuccessful, carpal tunnel injections can be beneficial. It is comprised of both a local anesthetic and a steroid medication. The anesthetic medication alleviates pain rapidly while the steroid medicine reduces inflammation of the connective tissue and can provide long lasting relief by relieving the pressure on the median nerve. The steroid medication can take 2-3 days up to a week to fully work.