Sometimes overworking our hands can cause them to become numb, tingly or painful. If this is the case taking a quick break, shaking them out usually solves the problem. Sometimes the problem is something as serious as carpal tunnel, or tendonitis. These painful syndromes if left untreated can cause serious issues.
I will discuss these two disorders and what causes them to occur. I will also discuss things you can do to treat them.
What is Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel is a syndrome that often causes severe pain to radiate from your inner wrist to your elbow. This pain can also travel down the nerve into the palm of your hand and into your fingers. Besides the pain, carpal tunnel might cause weakness, numbness, or a tingly, prickly sensation in your fingers and hand. In addition, you might notice your inner forearm is tender to the touch.
If you continue to irritate the ulnar and median nerve, you could have difficulty grasping and holding onto things. You will have difficulty closing your hand, making a fist. It will also be difficult to pinch your pinkie and thumb together. In addition, the numbness, tingling could become permanent and you could have atrophy, wasting of the muscles, which will cause claw like hands.
Carpal tunnel is usually caused by either soft tissue, bone, inflammation, cyst, or a tumor pressing on the nerve. Wrist injury and diseases like hypothyroidism, diabetes, obesity and tendonitis can also cause this to occur.
What is Tendonitis?
Tendonitis is similar to carpal tunnel. This large similarity can lead to a lot of confusion. What makes it more confusing is tendonitis can cause pain, numbness tingling in your hands and fingers. Tendonitis can also cause pain. This pain will radiate up the top part of your arm all the way to your shoulders, and down to your hands. This pain is often worse at night, and after you’ve used your arm for an extended period of time. It’s caused by constant respective movement which caused the tendon to become sore and possible injured. This injury can be a small tear, or puncture in the tendon.
How Can You Tell the Difference?
Tendonitis is caused by sore tendons where carpal tunnel is caused by a nerve being irritated and pinched. If the pain is underneath the arm, the palm side, it’s probably Carpal Tunnel, but if it’s on top then it’s more than likely tendonitis.
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel and Tendonitis
1- The doctor might suggest you take an over the counter pain reliever like Tylenol.
2- He might suggest a Non-steroid anti-inflammatory agent. This will reduce the swelling and the pain.
3- Another suggestion is a NSAID topical sports cream that contains menthol.
4- Ice packs to the affected area for 20 minutes is another suggestion. Be sure not to put the ice directly on the skin. Leave the ice off for half an hour in between. It’s suggested to apply ice after you’ve used the affected extremity.
5- Heat also helps relieve some of the pain. You can use a hot water bottle, a heating pad, or warmed up towel in the microwave. Perhaps you can try a long hot bath.
6- Some doctors suggest Corticosteroid shots. This will decrease swelling and inflammation, which will decrease the pain. For carpal tunnel, it will relieve enough swelling to release the pinched nerve.
7- The doctor might suggest you use a splint, to immobilize the area, and reduce some of the pressure. This will speed up your healing.
8- The doctor will also ask you not to use the affected extremity until it’s properly healed. When you move it around you could cause further damage.
9- The doctor might suggest you see a Physical therapist. They’ll try different types of treatments to help decrease your pain. Some of them might include; deep heat, ultra sound, massage, and hydrotherapy. They will also teach you stretching techniques and exercises that will help increase muscle strengthen. In addition, they will help you regain full use of your extremity once you’ve properly healed.
10- Another option you might consider is acupuncture. This has shown to help alleviate a lot of pain.
Sometimes when the above options doesn’t work the doctor might suggest surgery.
4 Types of Carpal Tunnel Surgery
- Simple decompression is the first type of surgery. The doctor will numb the skin, then he’ll make a small incision to release the pressure on the nerve.
- Simple decompression with epicondylectomy is where the doctor will numb the area. He will make a small opening and remove part of your epicondyle, funny bone.
- Subcutaneous transposition is when the doctor makes a 4 inch incision. He will then move the nerve in front of the elbow.
- The final surgery is the sub muscular transportation. You’ll be under general anesthesia. The doctor will make a six inch incision in the skin and a small one in your muscle. He’ll take the nerve move it below the muscle.
Like carpal tunnel doctors don’t like to do surgery unless it is the last possible alternative. If the doctor does suggest it, this is what will happen.
The surgeon will make a small incision in the hurt tendon. He will then begin surgically removing the damaged and scarred tissue. This will allow the healthy tendon to move around freely. If the doctor notices that the tendon’s torn, he will want to repair it. If the damage is extreme, he might choose to do a graft by taking a small amount of tissue from another tendon and place it on the wrist.
Carpal tunnel and tendonitis can both cause numbness tingling and pain in the lower arm hands and fingers. Although they have similarities they are caused by different things.
Carpal is caused when a nerve is pinched from soft tissue, bone, tumor, muscle or inflammation. Where tendonitis is caused by injury of the tendon from repetitive use.