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

If left untreated, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) can progress and lead to persistent symptoms that impact daily life and potentially result in complications. Some of the potential consequences of untreated CTS include:

Persistent Pain and Discomfort: Without treatment, the pain, numbness, tingling, and discomfort in the hand, wrist, and fingers associated with CTS may persist and worsen over time.

Nerve Damage: Chronic compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel can lead to nerve damage. Prolonged compression may cause permanent nerve injury, resulting in weakness, muscle atrophy (wasting), or loss of sensation in the affected hand.

Reduced Functionality: As CTS progresses, hand weakness and a loss of grip strength can develop, making it challenging to perform tasks that require fine motor skills or hand dexterity.

Sleep Disturbances: Symptoms such as pain, numbness, or tingling in the hands often worsen at night, leading to sleep disturbances and disrupted sleep patterns.

Reduced Quality of Life: Chronic pain, discomfort, and functional limitations caused by untreated CTS can significantly affect a person’s quality of life, impacting work, daily activities, and overall well-being.

Work-related Impacts: For individuals whose occupations involve repetitive hand movements or tasks that aggravate CTS symptoms, untreated CTS can lead to difficulties in performing job duties and may require time off work.

Permanent Damage: In severe cases or when left untreated for an extended period, CTS can cause irreversible nerve damage, leading to persistent symptoms even after treatment.

Early intervention and appropriate treatment for CTS are crucial to manage symptoms effectively, prevent progression, and reduce the risk of long-term complications. Treatment options may include splinting, ergonomic changes, lifestyle modifications, medications, corticosteroid injections, or in severe cases, surgical intervention (carpal tunnel release surgery). If you suspect you have CTS or are experiencing symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical evaluation and treatment to prevent potential complications. Here at Easy Orthopedics in Colorado Springs, we frequently see patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.

What are signs of carpal tunnel getting worse?

As Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) progresses, the symptoms may become more severe or persistent. Signs that CTS might be getting worse include:

Increased Pain: Worsening or persistent pain in the hand, wrist, palm, or fingers, especially during activities that involve repetitive hand movements or use of the affected hand.

Numbness or Tingling: The sensation of numbness, tingling, or pins and needles in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and part of the ring finger might become more frequent or intense, particularly at night or during activities that exacerbate CTS.

Hand Weakness: Progressive weakness in the affected hand, leading to difficulty performing tasks that require fine motor skills or gripping objects firmly.

Worsening Symptoms at Night: Increased discomfort, pain, or numbness during sleep that interrupts sleep patterns and causes disturbances due to the positioning of the hand during rest.

Reduced Grip Strength: A noticeable decrease in grip strength or the ability to firmly grasp objects due to weakness in the hand muscles.

Visible Muscle Wasting: In severe cases or as CTS progresses, muscle wasting or atrophy in the thumb muscles of the affected hand may become apparent.

Difficulty with Fine Movements: Increased difficulty performing precise or fine movements with the fingers, such as buttoning clothes or manipulating small objects.

What flares up carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) symptoms can be exacerbated or “flared up” by various factors that increase pressure on the median nerve within the carpal tunnel. Some common factors that can trigger or worsen CTS symptoms include:

Repetitive Hand and Wrist Movements: Activities involving repetitive hand and wrist movements or prolonged use of vibrating tools can aggravate CTS symptoms. This includes tasks like typing on a keyboard, using a computer mouse, assembly line work, or playing musical instruments.

Awkward Hand Positioning: Certain hand positions or postures that bend the wrist, especially in a flexed or extended position, can compress the median nerve and worsen symptoms. For instance, activities like holding a phone or book for an extended period in a flexed position may aggravate CTS.

Forceful or Vibratory Activities: Jobs or activities that involve forceful or continuous pressure on the hands, as well as the use of vibrating tools or machinery, can exacerbate symptoms.

Obesity or Fluid Retention: Conditions that lead to fluid retention or swelling in the wrist area, such as obesity, pregnancy, or certain medical conditions like arthritis, can increase pressure within the carpal tunnel and worsen symptoms.

Cold Temperatures: Cold temperatures or exposure to cold environments might temporarily worsen CTS symptoms, causing increased pain, numbness, or tingling in the affected hand.

Underlying Health Conditions: Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, or inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, can increase the risk of CTS or contribute to symptom exacerbation.

Improper Ergonomics: Poor ergonomic practices in the workplace, including improper workstation setup, uncomfortable hand positions, or inadequate support, can contribute to CTS symptoms.

Identifying and avoiding activities or conditions that exacerbate CTS symptoms can help manage the condition. Ergonomic modifications, lifestyle adjustments, proper hand positioning, breaks during repetitive tasks, and seeking medical advice for appropriate treatment are essential steps in managing and preventing flare-ups of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

How do you stop carpal tunnel from getting worse?

To prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) from worsening or alleviate symptoms, consider the following strategies:

Ergonomic Modifications: Ensure proper ergonomics at workstations. Use ergonomic keyboards, wrist rests, and proper chair height to maintain a neutral wrist position while working.

Take Breaks: Take regular breaks during repetitive hand tasks. Stretch and rest your hands and wrists periodically to reduce strain.

Hand and Wrist Positioning: Maintain a neutral wrist position while performing tasks. Avoid extreme flexion or extension of the wrist for prolonged periods.

Use Assistive Devices: If applicable, use assistive devices or tools designed to reduce strain on the hands and wrists during daily activities.

Supportive Braces: Consider wearing wrist splints or braces at night or during activities that exacerbate symptoms to keep the wrist in a neutral position and alleviate pressure on the median nerve.

Exercises: Perform hand and wrist exercises to improve flexibility and strength. A physical therapist can provide specific exercises that can help alleviate CTS symptoms.

Modify Activities: Adjust or modify activities that aggravate symptoms. Limit activities involving repetitive hand movements or prolonged gripping.

Avoid Excessive Force or Vibrations: Minimize activities that involve forceful or repetitive hand movements or the use of vibrating tools that can exacerbate symptoms.

Warm-up and Stretching: Before engaging in tasks that strain the hands or wrists, perform warm-up exercises and gentle stretching to prepare the muscles and reduce strain.

Seek Medical Advice: If symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical advice promptly. Early intervention and appropriate treatment can prevent CTS from progressing.

I hope we were able to answer some of your questions about what happens if you don’t treat carpal tunnel syndrome. If you would like us to evaluate your carpal tunnel syndrome and are in the Colorado area, contact us below to make an appointment at Easy Orthopedics.

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