Years of computer keystrokes, repetitive hand movements, trauma or congenital defects can cause pain from the fingers to the neck and shoulder. Over time, damage to local nerves, especially in the hand and wrist, can lead to debilitating pain and an inability to perform everyday tasks. This can often cause what is commonly known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
The narrowing of the area in the carpal tunnel, a hallway of bone and soft tissue that runs through the wrist, compresses a major nerve that leads to these classic symptoms:
- Loss of ability to detect hot and cold.
- Weakness or inability to maintain grip.
“While carpal tunnel does often affect people who spend a significant amount of time using the computer or performing construction activity like jackhammering, it can also be caused by hormonal changes, a tumor, cyst, trauma to the area or rheumatoid arthritis,” said Dr. Keith P. Aldrich Jr., an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in hand and wrist surgery at the Connecticut Orthopaedic Institute at MidState Medical Center. “Only your doctor can help you determine the cause of the problem and the best way to manage it.”
A variety of methods can treat carpal tunnel, depending on the underlying cause. If, for example, a patient has rheumatoid arthritis, treatment related to the arthritis would play a significant role in the approach. In other cases, nonsurgical treatments such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), splinting stretching and elimination or reduction of the aggravating activity may be in order.