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10-26-10

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome in one’s wrist can cause much discomfort, and if not treated it may become so painful that it prevents people from performing even simple tasks at work or home.

Carpal tunnel syndrome affects millions of people in the workplace and is often associated with highly repetitive activities.  It is a condition where a nerve from the arm to the hand is pinched or compressed, causing numbness and tingling in the fingers.  Dr. Michael Neumeister, professor and chair of the plastic and reconstructive surgery division at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains some causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.

SOUND BITE:   “ . . . there is a nerve and nine tendons in a very tight canal running together, anything that causes inflammation or friction within that canal, can cause carpel tunnel.  So if you have any trauma which gets into that canal,  if there is swelling just from over use that can cause carpel tunnel.” 

He says there are some things people can do to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.  He suggests wearing splints to keep the fingers or wrist from bending, especially while sleeping at night time.  He suggests other preventive measures.

SOUND BITE:  “. . . we put the splints on at night time, sometimes we use anti inflammatories  like Aleve or ibuprofen.  Other times a steroid shot may help the symptoms.  And I will give that type of conservative treatment for at least six weeks.  If that fails and you still have the symptoms, we need to talk about surgery.

Dr. Neumeister says changing the ergonomics of a person’s workplace such as adjusting the position of a chair or location of the computer mouse can help.  Anyone who has numbness and tingling in their fingers should see their primary care physician, who may refer them to a specialist such as a plastic surgeon for further evaluation and possible treatment.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.