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Carpal tunnel syndrome: Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Some injuries come on in an instant and cause immediate pain. Others, however, slowly take a toll on your body. And that's where carpal tunnel syndrome comes into play.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of pressure on your median nerve, which runs the entirety of the arm and ends in the hand.

The early symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are often nothing more than a minor annoyance, but over time it can become much more serious. The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Tingling of your fingers
  • Burning in the palm of your hand and/or fingers
  • Itching of the hand and/or fingers
  • Numbness of the hand and/or fingers
  • Excessive pain, especially when using your hand, such as when typing

Many people experience additional symptoms at night or early in the morning, as a result of the position of the hand while sleeping.

Diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome

The best way to receive a diagnosis is to consult with a doctor experienced in treating carpal tunnel syndrome. They'll start with a physical exam, which typically includes a variety of in-office tests, such as tapping on the palm side of your wrist to test your reaction.

Also, your doctor may order an EMG-NCV to measure the function of your nerve through the carpal tunnel.

What type of treatment is best?

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome, but it is instead based on the severity of your case, type of work you do and symptoms. Some treatment options include:

  • Medication: Your doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug or steroids to reduce swelling. Medication is a short-term solution.
  • Immobilization: The use of a splint can keep your wrist from flexing, which lessens pressure on the nerve. You can wear a splint both while using your hand and while sleeping.
  • Surgery: It's often a last resort, but a surgical procedure may be the best way to correct carpal tunnel syndrome once and for all.

If you have reason to believe your employment resulted in carpal tunnel syndrome, talk to your doctor about whether this is a possibility. Depending on their feedback, you may want to share your condition with your employer and file a claim for workers' compensation benefits.

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