What happens if you don’t treat carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common hand and wrist injury that is often caused by repetitive motion. Because symptoms tend to develop gradually, many people don’t recognize or treat the condition early on. But left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms can become more extreme, disrupting your life and severely limiting day-to-day activities. That’s why understanding the symptoms and treating carpal tunnel syndrome is essential.

Cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm goes through a small space at the base of the palm known as the carpal tunnel. The nerve is surrounded by bone, tendons and ligament, and when this nerve is squeezed or compressed, it often results in tingling or numbness in the hand and fingers, followed by weakness, pain or other more severe symptoms.

This compression occurs most commonly in women, often due to smaller bone structure, and thus less room in the carpal tunnel, and – surprising to many patients – symptoms may become more prominent after a night of rest. This is due to the fact that many people unknowingly flex their wrists while they sleep, causing nerve compression. For others, repetitive motion is the first trigger, which can come from many common activities including typing or cutting, painting and gardening.

If you’ve recently started a new activity that requires a repetitive hand or wrist motion, be sure to take breaks to avoid overuse of your hand and wrist muscles.

How Long Can I Go Without Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Without treatment, carpal tunnel syndrome can weaken your thumb and fingers, and reduce your strength and ability to grasp and grip. In severe cases, you may lose sensation for heat or cold or experience severe muscle deterioration at the base of the hand.

But being responsive to early symptoms can be key to prevention and the road to recovery. If you experience carpal tunnel symptoms, first take a break from repetitive activities, and begin an icing regimen for 10-15 minutes a couple of times per day. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can also help to relieve pain and reduce swelling.

If, after taking these actions for a few weeks, you don’t feel an improvement, it’s a good time to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic physician who specializes in hand and wrist injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome.

Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

An early diagnosis will lead to faster pain relief and also minimize long-term damage. Choose an orthopedic specialist who focuses on hand and wrist treatments. They will determine the nature and severity of your injury and recommend an appropriate treatment regimen. Many doctors will recommend a conservative treatment approach first, which may include rest, a wrist brace, and ice (yes, more ice!).  

Depending on your circumstances and response to these treatments, other options may be recommended, including injections or surgery if necessary. Your individual situation will drive your treatment recommendations, with the goal of minimizing or eliminating pressure on the median nerve to avoid long-term or even permanent nerve damage.

If surgery is needed to release pressure on the nerve, it’s typically an outpatient procedure and requires only a local anesthetic. Most patients can return to their normal activities in a matter of days after surgery.

If you are experiencing any of these carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, don’t wait to be diagnosed and treated. Delays will only prolong your pain or limit your activities and could lead to serious long-term nerve damage. 

See a hand and wrist specialist in Colorado Springs at Colorado Center of Orthopedic Excellence. Call for an appointment at 719-623-1050.

5 Causes of Wrist Pain

Whether you enjoy an athletic, energetic lifestyle or live a more sedentary, relaxing life, you may sometimes experience wrist pain that can slow down or stop your activities. Many factors can lead to wrist pain, and it’s often difficult to identify the precise cause, but there are some specific activities and conditions that can lead to soreness and pain in your wrists.

The most frequent causes of wrist pain include the following:

1. Injury

The wrist is formed by eight small bones at the base of the hand, called carpal bones, which connect to your forearm bones. The scaphoid bone, located at the base of the thumb, is the wrist bone that is fractured the most often.

Wrist injuries can occur when you fall onto your outstretched hand to catch your fall. Your entire body weight may be thrust onto the wrist area with enough force to cause damage. This action can cause strains, sprains, and fractures.

Tears in the wrist ligaments and tendons are also frequent injuries in athletes. High-impact contact sports such as hockey and football tend to create a higher risk of injury to the wrists.

2. Repetitive Stress

Activities that involve continuous repetitive stress of the hands, wrists, and fingers, such as typing, playing tennis or golf, and even driving for long distances, can eventually lead to wrist injury.

Repetitive use of the wrist can inflame its tendons (tendinitis) or put excessive pressure on local nerves. Certain jobs such as assembly line work, hairdressing, construction, or even sewing can cause repetitive damage to the wrist.

3. Arthritis

Arthritis occurs when the cartilage between bones wears down. Cartilage helps cushion joints and maintains their smooth movement and correct function. If arthritis develops in the wrist, the joints in the wrist area become inflamed and painful and, in extreme cases, may lose movement altogether.

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which can be caused by aging, obesity, injury, or the daily wear-and-tear of joints. Arthritis-related pain is often experienced as a dull toothache-like sensation.

Osteoarthritis of the wrist is not common, but it can happen to people who have had wrist fractures in the past. Rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy joints, can affect both wrists at the same time.

4. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, running from the forearm to the palm of the hand, becomes compressed or squeezed by the surrounding tissue. The median nerve crosses the palm side of the wrist at a narrow channel called the carpal tunnel, surrounded by bones and ligaments.

The median nerve is central to the wrist, hand, and finger movement. People sometimes describe the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome as painful pins-and-needles or a tingling sensation. The pain may reach all the way up to the shoulder, and it is usually experienced at night or after working for many hours.

5. Other Diseases and Conditions

Obesity and diabetes can put you at a higher risk of experiencing wrist pain. Conditions that can produce wrist pain include a ganglion cyst, which is a fluid-filled lump that can appear on top of your wrist. It can be drained by a physician, but it usually goes away naturally.

 An underactive thyroid gland can also cause wrist pain and inflammation. Kienbock’s disease is another condition seen in young adults when the blood supply to the bones of the wrist is affected.

Orthopedic Surgeon in Colorado Springs

Our team of physicians at the Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence are experts in wrist, knee, and joint injuries, and we can implement the most effective treatments. When surgery is warranted, our orthopedic surgeons utilize the least invasive techniques available.

For outstanding orthopedic treatment, call our Colorado Springs office at (719) 623-1050 or fill out our online appointment request form. Let us help you stay in the game!

The Complete Guide to Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common cause of hand pain, sensations of numbness and weakness, and that “pins and needles” feeling in the hands. At the Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence, we are experts in all aspects of hand and wrist care. That’s why we created this complete guide to carpal tunnel syndrome.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Affecting nearly 10% of the US population, carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression or entrapment of the medial nerve. The medial nerve runs under the skin in a narrow passageway known as the carpal tunnel. The tunnel extends from your forearm into your wrist. It is formed by the carpal bones and nine tendons. The medial nerve is responsible for signals to and from the thumb, index, middle and part of your ring finger. If the tendons and connective tissues become inflamed due to overuse or other factors, they can swell, placing pressure on the delicate nerve.

When the nerve is compressed, the signals cannot fire properly and patients often begin to notice pain, a tingling or burning sensation, and numbness. People with carpal tunnel syndrome may have trouble gripping or holding objects, or performing fine motor functions such as writing or playing a guitar. The onset of symptoms tends to be gradual and may come and go, especially at first.

If the condition is left untreated, it can cause the muscles to atrophy (waste away). While either hand can be affected, approximately half of the people diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome experience problems involving both hands.  Risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune disorders such as Lupus or multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Circulatory disorders
  • Obesity
  • Work that is highly repetitive, such as typing

Fortunately, carpal tunnel syndrome is highly treatable. Depending on the severity, it may require only rest, bracing, or other treatment such as anti-inflammatory medications. If you do not respond to treatment, surgery may be required.

The most common corrective surgery for carpal tunnel is known as an open release. In an open release procedure, the surgeon can correct the issue by opening a space to relieve pressure on the median nerve. The procedure requires a three-inch incision in what is known as the transverse carpal ligament, in order to enlarge the tunnel. This procedure usually takes about 15 minutes to perform.

This surgery is also possible with an endoscopic carpal tunnel release. An incision is made in the palm of the hand and the surgeon gently slides a small endoscope into the opening. The surgeon then makes another incision in order to insert a specialized instrument that will be used to relieve pressure on the nerve.

After the procedure has been completed, the wound is wrapped in a soft sterile dressing. Patients are required to wear bracing to protect the area and promote healing. Patients can move their fingers right after the surgery, and are advised to avoid gripping heavy objects or picking up heavy loads for another six weeks. To learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome, or any other orthopedic related concern, please call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence at (719) 623-1050 to request an appointment.

Types of Hand Pain

The anatomy of our hands is complex. The hand has 27 bones, muscles, joints, and ligaments. Due to the fragility of the hand, they are extremely prone to injury. Hand pain can also be caused by disease or injury affecting any of the structures in the hand.

Any problem causing pain, swelling, discoloration, numbness or a tingling sensation, or abnormal shape of the hand or wrist that persists for more than two or three days should be evaluated by your doctor to establish the cause and obtain the best treatment as early as possible. The early the problem is dealt with, the better the outcome or diagnosis will be, and the more treatable it will be. Conditions that affect the hand and wrist include:

Sprains and Strains:

Sprains and Strains are common with the hand and fingers. A strain involves the soft tissues of the hand, wrist or fingers. A sprain involves injury to your ligaments (bands of tissue that connect the bones together).


The common cause of a hand fracture is falling and landing on your arm or hand. Fractures are usually treated by splinting or putting on a cast, to allow the fracture to be supported and heal properly.  

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

CTS is a condition in the hand and wrist which causes numbness and tingling. The carpal tunnel is the part of the wrist. Permanent damage can occur if not treated properly.

Arthritis: Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid:

There are two major types of arthritis that can affect the hands. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, which gets worse with age and is caused by wear and tear. This type of arthritis affects the smooth cartilage lining of the joint. Osteoarthritis makes movement more difficult than usual, leading to pain and stiffness. Once the cartilage lining starts to roughen and thin out, the tendons and ligaments must compensate and work harder.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling. The outer covering of the joint called the synovium is the first place that becomes affected. This can then spread across the joint, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint’s shape, and may cause the bone and cartilage to break down.

Trigger Finger:

Trigger finger is caused when the fingers bend, but lock and become stiff, causing severe pain.

If you’re living with hand pain, it may be time to take a closer look at your symptoms and explore treatment options. Call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence at (719) 623-1050 to request an appointment.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Vs. Arthritis

Like everybody else, you rely on the use of your hands for almost everything you do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, when you start to experience constant pain and discomfort in your hands and wrists, these simple tasks often become uncomfortable and more difficult. Two big culprits of this type of pain are Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and both conditions are infamous for the pain and discomfort they bring to the hands and wrists. Since both of these conditions lead to a similar type of pain, they can be easily confused. You should know that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and arthritis are different conditions, and ultimately may have different treatments and outcomes.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is an area on the palm side of your wrist, which is made up of bones and ligaments. This area houses a main nerve to your hand, known as the median nerve, as well as the nine tendons that bend your fingers. The median nerve provides sensation to the palm side of your thumb and fingers, except your little finger. It also provides nerve signals to move the muscles around the base of your thumb.

This condition causes a tingling and numbness in your fingers and hand, often when you’re holding a steering wheel, phone or newspaper. This sensation can even wake you up from sleeping and may extend from your wrist up your arm. Carpal tunnel syndrome stems from anything that crowds, irritates or compresses the median nerve, such as a wrist fracture, swelling or inflammation.


In mild cases of this disorder, you can ease discomfort by taking frequent breaks to rest your hands. Try to avoid activities that worsen your symptoms, and even apply cold packs to reduce any swelling and inflammation. If these don’t relieve your symptoms within a few weeks, your doctor may recommend additional options such as wrist splinting, medications or surgery depending on how advanced the disorder is.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?

RA is an autoimmune disorder characterized by chronic inflammation, typically affecting the small joints in your hands as well as your feet. This condition isn’t caused by wear and tear, but rather it occurs when your immune system attacks your own body’s tissues. Specifically, it targets the lining of your joints, leading to painful swelling that can cause severe joint problems.


Although there isn’t a cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are medications that reduce joint inflammation to relieve pain and slow joint damage. If you have RA, your rheumatologist may recommend occupational or physical therapy so you can learn to protect your joints and keep them flexible. If RA severely damages joints, surgery may be necessary.

If you would like to find out more information about Rheumatoid Arthritis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence at (719) 623-1050 to request an appointment.