Working adjustments may need to be considered for those with carpal tunnel syndrome, amid reports of an NHS treatment ‘bottleneck’, a surgeon has warned.
Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Ali Noorani warned employers that the condition, which sees the median nerve compressed in the wrist, has worsened for many people due to home working conditions and a lack of available appointments for treatment.
It is the most frequently seen problem in limb orthopaedics, with up 16% of people likely to experience carpal tunnel syndrome at some point in their lives, said Noorani. Middle-aged women are the most likely to experience the condition.
“Currently there is a long backlog in the NHS of people waiting for surgery. I want people to know that it is crucial to get checked out as soon as possible because carpal tunnel won’t go away on its own. If you have no treatment and no lifestyle modifications then your condition is going to get worse, and you risk doing significant and permanent damage to your median nerve. We need to act in a timely manner to prevent long lasting damage,” said Noorani.
The condition causes symptoms including numbness, pins and needles, and pain. Symptoms can affect the whole hand, but especially the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. If left untreated, eventually it will result in the wasting of the muscles supplied by the nerve.
The condition can be genetic, but can also be caused by work-related activities such as typing and using tools. Pregnant women can also experience the condition due to fluid retention.
Noorani said those experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome should be encouraged to modify their activities, including stopping typing or repeated pressure through work. Splints keep hands straight and stop pressure on nerve, especially when sleeping.
He said early treatment and lifestyle moderation will prevent the condition becoming chronic and could avoid the need for surgery.