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What are treatments for carpal tunnel?

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Quick Answer

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome includes resting from activities involving excessive and repetitive hand motions, using ice packs, taking medications to reduce swelling and inflammation, splinting the affected wrist and undergoing surgery. For people with carpal tunnel syndrome, having an early diagnosis, in combination with early treatment, may prevent the need for surgery. Many doctors choose conservative treatments for cases diagnosed early, although adequate and appropriate treatment depends partially on causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Full Answer

Carpal tunnel syndrome presents as numbness, tingling or weakness in the hand and wrist. These symptoms stem from pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the wrist. The causes of carpal tunnel syndrome vary and may include hypothyroidism, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as performing repetitive hand motions, and even pregnancy. Following onset, symptoms may progress quickly.

According to the Mayo Clinic, only individuals with mild or moderate symptoms lasting no longer than 10 months find relief from conservative treatments, including splinting, pain relievers and corticosteroid injections. When conservative measures fail, doctors often perform surgery. Surgery comes in two forms: endoscopic and open surgery. Endoscopic surgery involves surgeons making small incisions in the ligament surrounding the median nerve, which alleviates swelling. Open surgery involves cutting entirely through the ligament, in turn alleviating nerve pressure. Both procedures carry some risks, including scarring, infection and nerve injuries.

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