Physical examination. During a physical examination, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and look for signs of nerve pressure. This includes checking for tenderness, swelling, and deformities. To help your doctor evaluate sensation in your fingers and muscle strength in your hand, some simple tests may be conducted:
Nerve conduction studies. These measure the speed and function of the median nerve. A small electrode is placed on the skin near the elbow to send a small electrical current down the median nerve. As healthy nerves transmit electrical signals quickly, the amount of time taken for the current to travel to your fingers will indicate the amount of nerve damage you are experiencing.
Electromyogram. In this diagnostic test, a small needle is inserted into the muscles in your hand to send electrical impulses that measure the muscle function around the median nerve while you squeeze and relax your hands several times.
Imaging tests. Imaging tests such as an ultrasound, X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be performed to rule out any other possible causes of wrist pain such as arthritis.
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome usually depends on the severity of its symptoms, ranging from lifestyle changes and medication to surgery or a combination of these.
You can reduce your risk for developing this painful condition with some lifestyle adjustments:
Putting your wrist in a brace or splint to restrict its movement can allow a period of rest to relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. It may also help to wear one while sleeping.
Physiotherapy can help you to adjust the way you use your hands and wrist in your daily routine, to reduce pressure and therefore pain. You can also learn different ways to stretch and relieve strain on your wrists, and exercises to strengthen your hand and wrist muscles.
Your doctor may prescribe pain relievers or medication to help reduce swelling, but these should be taken sparingly and only under medical supervision.
For severe and persistent symptoms, carpal tunnel release surgery may be recommended. The procedure involves cutting the carpal ligament to reduce pressure on the median nerve.
In cases where carpal tunnel release surgery is unsuccessful, microsurgical neurolysis may be advised. This procedure releases tight scar tissue around the median nerve to relieve pressure. In some cases, soft tissue will then be transferred to the bare median nerve to prevent scarring from happening again, which would cause the symptoms to return.
See your doctor or a hand surgeon if you have signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome that interfere with your normal activities and sleep patterns. Early diagnosis and treatment offer the best chances for effective relief and prevents the symptoms from getting worse.