Dr. Frank Campanile, a board certified plastic surgeon with fellowship training in hand and microsurgery, holds a S.O.T.H. (Surgery Of The Hand) certificate and leads Denver Hand Surgery, which specializes in treating conditions of the hand, including carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, trigger finger and other hand and wrist related injuries and ailments.
As the number of carpal tunnel syndrome cases increases, with 500,000 related surgeries per year (according to this New York Times article), so too does the amount of misinformation about the condition. To set the record straight, here are the top three myths about carpal tunnel syndrome and the best ways to treat it.
1. It’s Because of My Keyboard
There is no hard evidence that Carpal tunnel is directly linked to excessive computer use, or to using the wrong keyboard. The condition could be the result of virtually any repetitive motion that causes cumulative damage over the years.
Further, not all wrist pain is carpal tunnel. Pain in the hand, arm or wrists following a long day of typing could be caused by arthritis, tendonitis or an injury. These can all cause symptoms that are very similar to carpal tunnel, yet a different treatment approach may be required to be effective. As with any health concern, it’s critical that you visit an experienced medical doctor who can give you an accurate diagnosis and suggestions on how to properly minimize any discomfort.
2. It Only Hurts When I Move
When first diagnosed with carpal tunnel, many patients assume that the pain will only occur when doing activities that strain the wrist. However, reports of severe pain at night are not at all uncommon, and sometimes require a special splint to correct. Carpal tunnel may cause discomfort even when resting the wrist, due to the damage that’s already occurred.
Pain from carpal tunnel isn’t always limited to just the hand and wrist area, either. Severe cases can cause radiating pain as far away as the neck or shoulder. Numbness and tingling, the other primary symptoms of carpal tunnel, are harder to localize, but can also manifest throughout the hand, wrist, arm neck or shoulder. Again, the only way to be certain that you’re getting the proper treatment is to consult your doctor.
3. Surgery Is My Only Option
Although there are a number of hand and wrist surgeons who are very skilled at correcting carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery is not the only treatment.
Most doctors recommend starting with a conservative approach, including avoiding hand and wrist strain, practicing therapeutic hand and wrist exercises, changing your work area to be more ergonomic, resting your wrist as much as possible and/or sleeping with a wrist brace on to relieve nerve pressure. Over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medications also can be used to reduce pain and inflammation. Only if these attempts fail, or start providing less relief, should surgery be considered.
Getting the Facts
Because carpal tunnel seems like such a common issue these days, it’s tempting to self-diagnose your wrist discomfort and pursue the simplest treatment methods on your own. Researching more about carpal tunnel is easily done online, yet non-medical resources may contain inaccurate information. If you’re experiencing pain, numbness or tingling throughout your wrist, hand or lower arm, it’s best to see a doctor in order to get an accurate diagnosis. From there, a proper approach toward treatment can be determined that leaves out all the myths and just focuses on helping you feel better.