Untreated Carpal Tunnel

Wondering what will happen if you don’t treat your carpal tunnel syndrome and it continues to get worse?

We’ll review the basics of carpal tunnel syndrome and the ultimate progression of symptoms. Please also see my post on what carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms feel like to see more on progression.

What is Going on When You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a problem that occurs when one of your nerves gets compressed within the carpal tunnel. The name of this nerve is the median nerve.

Nerves typically relay information about sensation from your skin to your brain and also relays information of how to move your muscles from your brain down to your muscles.

When the median nerve gets compressed, it can get damaged. When this damage occurs it usually first affects your ability to feel things and then can ultimately impact your hand strength.

Intermittent Tingling and Numbness to Constant Symptoms

The symptoms of tingling and numbness usually occur in the thumb, ring finger, middle finger, and index finger. Eventually, with time, your symptoms will progress from being present for short periods to becoming constant. This likely represents a change in how much of the nerve is damaged.

At first, the symptoms may only occur at night. As time passes, you may experience symptoms during other activities and ultimately it becomes constant.

Weakness with Hand Muscles

Eventually, when there is enough nerve damage, it will impact your hand strength.

The muscles that can be impacted are primary muscles that help with thumb strength. When you have weakness of these muscles it becomes more difficult to grip objects. People typically have difficulty with opening jars, turning doorknobs, or turning keys.

Why Seek Diagnosis

It is important if you are having symptoms to seek professional medical advice for both diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of tingling, numbness, and weakness can also be due to other diagnoses such as pinched nerves in the neck or peripheral neuropathy. Without proper diagnosis, you will be unable to properly treat it.

Sometimes, as part of helping with diagnosis, you will need to be sent for an electromyography (EMG), or nerve test. This test may rule out other diagnoses and also may show the severity of your carpal tunnel syndrome.

As I said earlier, as carpal tunnel syndrome continues to progress it can cause weakness. This is why it is important to seek treatment – to prevent it from getting to that point.

Possible Treatments

If there is concern for carpal tunnel syndrome, you will almost always be recommended to wear a wrist brace. This wrist brace will not only help with symptoms, but it will also hopefully allow your nerve to heal. Generally, doctors will tell you to wear the brace at night. You can consider wearing the brace 24/7 for a couple weeks and then continue wearing only at night after that.

A wrist brace helps prevent you from moving your wrist in ways which can compress the carpal tunnel and damage your nerve further. Symptoms may not decrease immediately after you start wearing the brace, so I encourage that you give it a fair shot before calling it quits.

Depending on your symptoms, you may be prescribed some medications to help with your symptoms. Medications may include anti-inflammatory medications or medications to treat nerve pain. You may also be told to ice the wrist to decrease inflammation. Physical therapy is also sometimes prescribed to show you some exercises that can help with symptoms. Usually, these treatments are primarily to help with your symptoms and not to help improve the nerve injury.

When the symptoms or nerve injury become severe, other treatment options are considered. This may include carpal tunnel steroid injections or even carpal tunnel releases.