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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition with numbness in hands. However, it is not the only cause of hand numbness. Other potential causes are listed below.
The pattern of symptoms can help determine if the cause is pressure on a nerve, a disease, medications, or another condition. For many of these disorders, a thorough history and physical exam are most important to narrow down or make a diagnosis. Further tests such as an x-ray, an MRI, nerve tests (such as EMG), ultrasound, blood tests, or a spinal tap may be used to help confirm a diagnosis.
Specific treatment recommendations can be made by your hand surgeon once you are diagnosed. You may also be referred to other specialists such as a neurologist, rheumatologist, pain management specialist, or other health care provider. When there is weakness or stiffness, hand therapy may be helpful. Your hand therapist will show you some strengthening exercises that can be helpful. Wrist or elbow braces can often improve positional numbness. Some of the compression neuropathies can be treated with steroid injections (also known as a cortisone shot).
When other non-operative treatments have failed, surgical decompression can be considered. Symptom improvement is dependent on time of pressure, severity of pressure, and other patient factors. Some problems can be fully treated. Other times, not all numbness or weakness will go away with treatment. Nerve injury can sometimes be permanent. If medical treatment at least stops the problem from getting worse, that can be considered a good benefit. To reduce the chances of permanent numbness, tingling, or weakness, find a hand surgeon to evaluate you early after symptoms start.