Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon
Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon
Dr James Mclean - Orthopaedic Surgeon

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is not a single condition. Rather, it is a collection of symptoms commonly caused by other underlying conditions. In simple terms, swelling inside the narrow carpal tunnel in the wrist is the cause of the pain. A variety of conditions contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome so your doctor will usually look for underlying causes.

The Carpal Tunnel Explained

The Carpal Tunnel is a narrow passageway between the wrist and the hand. The wrist bones lie underneath it and the transverse carpal ligament sits over the top. Inside the carpal tunnel is the median nerve, which gives feeling to the thumb, index finger, third finger and half of the ring finger. Several tendons also pass through this narrow space. When swelling occurs, these tendons squash or constrict the large median nerve. Symptoms of numbness and pain and reduced function are the result.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If you have any of the following symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it’s a good idea to make an appointment. Early intervention often means treatment is more effective.

  • Weakness in your hand.
  • You suffer pain at night.
  • You have pain that radiates into your arm or shoulder.
  • Your little finger and half of your ring finger are not affected by pain or weakness.
  • You have stabbing pains in your wrist.
  • You experience numbness or pins and needles in your wrist or hand.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

While sometimes the cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome remains a mystery, the following conditions are common causes:

  • Pregnancy can cause fluid retention which leads to swelling.
  • Arthritis often causes swelling and inflammation.
  • Wrist fracture, when a fragment of bone irritates surrounding tissue.
  • Overuse of the hand or wrist, especially when using awkward or repetitive movements.
  • Some people were born with a smaller carpal tunnel, making them more prone to problems.

Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In most cases, non-surgical treatments will be recommended before considering surgery. These can include:

  • Wearing a splint at night to help with the pain.
  • Resting your hand and wrist if the injury is caused by overuse.
  • Physiotherapy treatments.
  • Corticosteroid injections to reduce the swelling.
  • Diuretic medication which reduces fluid in your body by excreting it as urine.

Surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

When surgery is the best option, Dr McLean will perform a relatively simple operation. It involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament over the top of the carpal tunnel, which relieves pressure on the median nerve below. As your body heals the injury to the ligament, scar tissue forms which should prevent the buildup of pressure on the nerve.

Dr McLean prefers to manage carpal tunnel syndrome using a minimally-invasive, key-hole endoscopic surgical technique (when indicated). An open technique can also be used and involves a slightly larger incision and clear visualisation of the structures inside the carpal tunnel. See the page on Carpal Tunnel Surgery for specific details about this surgery.

After surgery, it is important to plan for a period of rest while you heal. Allow at least three or four weeks before you are able to resume normal use.  For more information about driving after carpal tunnel surgery, read this guide.

Make an Appointment

If you are experiencing the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it’s important to act early. Delaying treatment can cause permanent damage and cost you lost hours at work. So call us on 08 8267 8292 to discuss your concerns and make an appointment or use our handy online booking service.