Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition which has become more widely known since the vast expansion of office jobs in the 1990’s. Also known as median neuropathy at the wrist, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs through the wrist and forearm, is compressed inside the carpal tunnel, the bony tube which houses the nerve. This compression interferes with the nerve, causing pain, weakness or any combination of sensations (a swelling feeling, tingling, itching, burning or numbness) in the hand and forearm, especially around the thumb, index finger and middle finger.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is rarely caused by a defect in the median nerve, but rather from an increase in pressure from the surrounding tendons or muscles. In many cases, this increase in pressure has no identifiable cause, though in others it can be identified as being caused by stress on the wrist, traumatic injury, or repetitive hand and wrist motions (especially intensive motions like lifting, grasping, etc.) Though it is often believed that heavy computer use contributes to or causes carpal tunnel syndrome, research studies are much less conclusive that such a correlation exists.
Several treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome exist which can alleviate symptoms, such as an immobilizing brace, medication to help alleviate pain, stretching and wrist-strengthening exercises, and alternative therapies like massage, chiropractic and other alternative treatments. For more permanent control of the symptoms, the only surgical option is carpal tunnel release surgery. Carpal tunnel release, one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States, can be completed under local anesthesia, and does not usually require an overnight hospital stay. Carpal tunnel release involves the surgeon severing a group of tissues around the carpal tunnel, relieving the pressure on the tunnel and thereby relieving symptoms.