After Hours GP Focus on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Posted: Jun 10, 2019
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a painful condition affecting the forearm and hand. This can create problems for people who need to perform repetitive movements for their work. So, here the After Hours GP team is putting a focus on Carpal tunnel syndrome.
The Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel
Carpal tunnel is a neurological disorder caused by excess pressure being exerted on the nerves running along the wrist. This can present as a number of symptoms including:
- Feelings of numbness or tingling (pins and needles) in the palm • Pain in the wrist and hand, this often radiates down to the fingers or up the arm toward the elbow. • Loss of grip strength that is accompanied by a feeling of weakness that can make simple tasks like holding small objects challenging. • A sensation of swelling in the fingers, despite them looking normal size.
Typically, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms are far more exaggerated at night. This is particularly the case when you tend to sleep with your wrist flexed and your palms bend towards your forearms. Generally, the dominant hand initially develops symptoms, but both of the hands can be affected at the same time. When left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can allow the pressure on the median nerve leading to the base of the thumb to decline and waste away.
To reduce the long term median nerve damage, it is crucial to recognise the symptoms and obtain an early diagnosis. To confirm a diagnosis, Your After Hours GP will physically examine your arms, neck, shoulders, and hands to assess whether the symptoms relate to an underlying issue or carpal tunnel. You may be asked to place your fingers and hands into specific positions to bring on symptoms deliberately. The GP will also check your wrists for any signs of tenderness, discolouration or swelling, check the sensation in your fingers individually and check the muscles below your palm to assess the strength and whether there is any muscle wastage.
Estimates suggest that a third of patients diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome recover without specific treatment. However, with more painful, severe symptoms there are a number of treatment options including:
- Apply a cool pack to relieve swelling • Wear a splint or hand brace during sleeping to prevent the wrist being bent • Elevate the affected forearm and hand during sleep to reduce pressure and relieve symptoms • Avoid aggravating activities for at least two weeks • Take anti inflammatory medication to reduce inflammation and swelling and pain relief. • Take corticosteroids for inflammation reduction. These can be oral tablets, or an injection applied directly to the affected wrist.
If the symptoms persist despite these treatments, there is a final option of surgery. This "surgical release" procedure involves cutting the carpal ligament to release pressure on the median nerve. This can provide immediate relief, but physical therapy is recommended for a full recovery.
If you would like to learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome or need advice from an After Hours GP in Perth, be sure to speak to us. The After Hours GP team is available to address any of your queries or concerns.
If you would like further guidance to improve your health and wellbeing from an after hours GP, Perth residents should call us.