Temple Health helps woman recover from carpal tunnel syndrome

CHALFONT, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Although millions of people have had carpal tunnel syndrome, there are many misconceptions about what it is - or isn't.

Sue Pennington of Chalfont, Pa., delights in playing the piano.

But a few years ago, carpal tunnel syndrome in her right hand was turning joy into pain.

"The thumb, middle and index finger were always numb," she said.

She also felt pain & weakness on her job as a surgical nurse.

"Using your hands a lot with instrumentation was really difficult - closing instruments, opening instruments," she said.

Dr. Hesham Abdelfattah of Temple Health says when the nerve passing through that tunnel is pinched or compressed, it can cause burning, pain, tingling, or numbness.

"Oftentimes people think, you know, my hands hurt because I use my hands a lot and I must have carpal tunnel syndrome," Abdelfattah said. "It's not always the case."

"It would wake me up in the middle of the night," Sue said.

Dr. Abdelfattah says some people are more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome: women - including pregnant women - people with diabetes, obesity, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Workers who use high-impact tools like jackhammers are also more prone.

He says there is no evidence computer use is a cause.

The doctor says anyone with symptoms shouldn't delay getting care.

"The more significant the nerve compression and the longer the nerve's compressed, the more damage you get - the numbness and tingling. The numbness becomes permanent and you develop significant weakness in your hand," Abdelfattah said.

Dr. Abdelfattah says anti-inflammatory medications, wrist splints, and injections help with milder cases.

Sue eventually needed surgery. It only took a small incision on her palm and a short recovery.

Now, she barely remembers having carpal tunnel.

Doctor Abdelfattah says there are no proven programs or products which prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, and it won't go away on its own.
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