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Nerve Test For Carpal Tunnel

by Lyndon Langley
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Nerve Test For Carpal Tunnel

Nerve Test For Carpal Tunnel

Your doctor has just diagnosed you with carpal tunnel syndrome. Now what? Treatment options include rest, splints or surgery. In order to choose the right option for you, it’s important to know how carpal tunnel affects people differently. Some people who have this problem find relief from certain activities like typing, while others don’t notice any effects at all. It can even take months or years before symptoms become apparent.
Carpal tunnel is an entrapment neuropathy that occurs when there isn’t enough room around the wrist for several tendons and ligaments. The main one responsible for squeezing the median nerve is called Guyon’s canal. The median nerve runs through here from underneath the flexor retinaculum (a tendon sheath) and up toward the palm side of the hand. The nerve then splits into three smaller nerves that go to each finger. At the bottom of Guyon’s canal is where the carpal tunnel begins (the carpal bone).
The carpal bones form a protective arch over the median nerve. Because they’re attached to the top of the forearm bones by a thick ligament known as the palmaris longus, the bones act together to protect the nerve. However, because of the tight fit between the bones and the surrounding tissue, pressure builds up inside the tunnel. This causes swelling and inflammation within the soft tissues, which leads to pain and eventually weakness in muscles, joints and hands.
Symptoms usually develop slowly over time. You might not realize anything was wrong until after you’ve been experiencing them for a few weeks or months. Painful burning sensations, numbness and tingling are common complaints. Numbness in particular is also known as paraesthesia. When you feel something that doesn’t correspond to touch, it’s called dysaesthesia. Other signs of carpal tunnel syndrome include muscle weakness, especially in the thumb, and problems gripping things. One study found that half of patients reported getting their jobs done slower than usual due to these issues.
If left untreated, carpal tunnel can cause severe pain and loss of function. Fortunately, there are ways to relieve the symptoms without having to undergo surgery. Depending on your specific situation, you may want to try treating yourself using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, steroid injections or physical therapy. Surgery is another option available to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. This procedure involves cutting holes in the bones so the fingers can move better.
There are many different types of tests that doctors use to help determine whether someone has carpal tunnel. We’ll talk about some of the more commonly used ones next.
Electromyography Tests
This widely accepted method of testing involves placing fine wire electrodes near the area where the median nerve leaves the arm. As we mentioned earlier, the carpal tunnel is under the flexor retinaculum and above the wrist joint. Doctors place the wires near both sides of the wrist. These electrodes record the electric activity generated by the muscles beneath the surface of the skin. If the nerve conduction slows down, the signal will be weaker. Slowing down of the signals indicates that carpal tunnel is causing the issue.
Doctors also perform EMG tests to help make sure that other conditions aren’t interfering with the results. There are other possible causes of carpal tunnel. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis/dermatomyositis, fibromyalgia, lupus erythymatosus, HIV infection, diabetes, thyroid disease, pregnancy, alcohol abuse, nutritional deficiencies and liver or kidney disorders could produce similar symptoms. Your doctor will need to run additional tests to ensure that none of these conditions are present.
Other Diagnostic Procedures
X-rays provide information about the size of bones and alignment of joints. Ultrasounds look at fluid buildup and detect cysts. Angiograms show blood flow to areas such as tumors. Blood tests check for infections, autoimmune diseases and other illnesses. An MRI scan shows internal structures such as cartilage, discs and vertebrae.
Surgery is typically recommended once carpal tunnel has persisted longer than six months. This is true even for mild cases. Surgical procedures include decompression, resection and repair. Decompression means removing pressure buildups in the carpal tunnel by widening the space or opening it completely. Resection refers to removal of the bony ridge that squeezes the carpal tunnel. Finally, repair works to fix damage caused by carpal tunnel. Surgeons insert screws, pins or rods to hold the ends of the carpal bones apart. They may also attach new tissue or connective material to strengthen the ligament.
Non-surgical treatments are often tried first. Taking aspirin or ibuprofen can reduce swelling and improve the circulation. Massaging your wrist daily helps keep muscles relaxed. Physical therapy may be helpful for improving grip strength and dexterity. Special exercises designed specifically for carpal tunnel can also prevent or lessen the severity of symptoms.
Depending on how much discomfort you experience, you may want to consider surgical intervention. But remember that carpal tunnel is a chronic problem that requires patience and perseverance. With proper treatment, you can avoid becoming disabled or unable to work.

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