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Orthopedics

Progressive Pain and Numbness May be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Progressive Pain and Numbness May be
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
““Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms typically occur while holding things, like a phone, a newspaper or a book; or gripping a steering wheel. Symptoms may also wake you at night,” Dr. Collins says.

Marked by tingling or numbness, pain radiating or extending from the wrist and/or a sense of weakness, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a pinched median nerve. The median nerve runs from the forearm to the hand through a passageway in the wrist— called the carpal tunnel.

While there are a number of factors that can lead to a pinched median nerve, in many cases, no single cause can be identified. “Examples of risk factors include wrist fractures, anatomy, underlying health conditions— like diabetes, arthritis—and, sometimes, patterns of use,” explains orthopedic surgeon Sandra Collins, M.D. “Carpal tunnel syndrome is often a result of a combination of factors.”

Keeping track of your history of symptoms can help lead to a diagnosis, and more accurately pinpoint a cause. “We look at patterns, like the typical times you experience symptoms,” Dr. Collins says. “Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms typically occur while holding things, like a phone, a newspaper or a book; or gripping a steering wheel. Symptoms may also wake you at night.”


Other methods for diagnosis include:

  • Physical exam, which tests the feeling in the fingers and the strength of the hand
  • X-ray, which is done to exclude other possible causes of wrist pain, like a fracture or arthritis
  • Electromylogram, which tests for muscle damage
  • Nerve conduction study, which checks electrical impulses through the median nerve in the carpal tunnel


Treatment options range from nonsurgical methods, like wrist splinting or over-the- counter pain medications to injections of corticosteroids. “If symptoms persist or are severe after initial, nonsurgical treatment, then surgery may be the best option,” Dr. Collins says. “Surgery is done to relieve pressure on the median nerve and involves cutting the ligament that is pressing on the nerve. The ligament gradually grows back, but allows more room than existed before.”

Dr. Collins provides the following tips for temporary relief from symptoms:

  • Take breaks from repetitive activities that involve using your hands.
  • Rotate your wrists and stretch your palms and fingers.
  • Wear a wrist splint at night.
  • Avoid sleeping on your hands—that will ease the pain or numbness in your wrists and hands.

If you experience symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, speak to your physician or health care provider—a referral to the orthopedic surgeon may alleviate your pain


Sandra Collins, M.D.
Orthopedic Center of Florida
12670 Creekside Lane
Fort Myers, FL 33919
239-482-2663

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