Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that doctors classify as a “repetitive strain injury,” meaning that carpal tunnel does not just happen after one injury, but as the result of repeated overuse of the tendons surrounding the median nerve in the wrist. The median nerve controls the movement and feeling in the wrist, up through the palms and fingers and when this nerve experiences long-term pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome can occur.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include: definitive wrist pain spreading into the arm, tingling or numb feeling in the fingers and palm, inability to determine temperature in the fingers, and loss of movement in the wrist, palm and fingers. If left untreated, carpal tunnel can cause the muscles in the hand, especially the thumb, to waste away and become less usable. Carpal tunnel syndrome is seen most often in those that work around computers, avid video game players, or those in assembly line employment: sewing, cleaning or packaging.

The traditional way to determine carpal tunnel treatment was through a physical examination called a Tinel test, in which the treating physician applies slight pressure to the median nerve, usually causing a shock of pain through the patient’s hand. There is also the Phalen test where the patient is asked to hold the back of the hands together with arms out for upwards of 2 minutes. If these tests proved to be inconclusive, most doctors will use electrodiagnostic tests by inserting electric shock into the nerve and measuring the speed in which the signal is transmitted. This process begins by inserting a fine needle into the muscle surrounding the median nerve and applying electrodes into the muscle to determine the degree of damage.

Ultrasound accurate in confirming carpal tunnel syndrome

According to a 2014 article published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, ultrasound technology is helpful at determining Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Orthopedic doctors have found that ultrasound technology may be more effective in determining if a patient has carpal tunnel syndrome. Ultrasounds are used to show if the median nerve is experiencing any impairment as a result of arthritis, muscle tears, or tendonitis.  Ultrasound, especially modern digital ultrasounds, had high sensitivity to carpal tunnel in laboratory studies in comparison to the electrodiagnostic testing. In summary “ultrasound was accurate in 89% of cases and electrodiagnostic testing was accurate in 86% of cases” highlighting that the simpler and less expensive ultrasound technology can determine carpal tunnel syndrome.

Ultrasounds use the power of sound waves in order to produce images. Without any invasive properties, shots or radiation, ultrasounds are safe and comfortable to patients in comparison to needles and electric shocks and they offer invaluable information.

At Doctors Imaging in Metairie, we use the Phillips digital ultrasound, a state of the art machine that creates clear and concise images for doctors and can help your hand doctor to determine whether medication, physical therapy or surgery is necessary for those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. For more information, look through our Ultrasound Page or call us at 504-883-8111 to schedule your ultrasound appointment.

Understanding Arthritis Treatment and Medical Imaging

Arthritis is a common and painful condition that affects millions of people. For most, arthritis begins its onset after one has reached a certain age but for many, it can begin much earlier. Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis but there are medications, therapies and topical solutions that can help alleviate the pain and help people continue to have a respectable standard of living.

What exactly is arthritis? Arthritis, in essence, is the hardening or calcification of the joints of the body. Arthritis can affect any part of the body that has a jointed connection. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Arthritis or osteoarthritis is defined as a painful inflammation or stiffness of the joints commonly caused by age, genetic condition, or health problems. Every movement that is made with your body is calibrated by joints. They help your muscles and bones move and stretch the way you want them to. When arthritis takes over these areas, inflammation and painful swelling causes the bones to move, stiffen and twist.

As one can imagine, this is a very painful condition. Because joints are necessary to most movement, when arthritis affects areas like hands, feet and knees, many people have difficulty staying mobile, keeping their jobs or just maneuvering through their daily activities like making food, opening doors or walking down the street.

Most people think that the elderly are the only ones that can fall victim to arthritis. In actuality, people of all ages can develop the condition. The most common form of arthritis for younger individual to notice is rheumatoid arthritis. RA happens when the body’s antibodies begin to attack the body’s joints. There is no cure so many people find it difficult to hold down steady job and family interactions without some form of assistance.

Since there is, unfortunately, no cure for arthritis, what can those who are afflicted do to relieve their pain and pressure? Many doctors and studies recommend exercise a very beneficial way to promote energy and to decrease the painful swelling. As the body’s heart rate increases, so does blood flow. Blood flow entering these arthritic joints is key to help alleviating the pain.

Swimming is another great option for arthritis treatment. The buoyancy of the water and the coolness or warmth of your pool or hot bath can help relieve pain and allow for movement. In addition, if one has arthritis in the ankle or feet, floating on the water can help with pain management, mobility, weight control and general mood and energy improvement. Some use topical creams and pain relief salves to help with their pain, others use pharmaceuticals or holistic approaches. Whatever works to help you feel better, do so.

For many, keeping an eye out on the progression and changes of their arthritis can be helpful toward learning about new medication and therapies that may provide comfort. Surgery can sometimes help with arthritic joints like the shoulder, knee, the spine and the hips. This can be done with medical imaging procedures such as X-rays and MRIs. With X-rays, doctors can see how arthritis is progressing, how it is affected the others bones in the area and what the effects will be in the future of this condition. Remember that arthritis is common, most people have it in some part of their body. For many that lived a rambunctious life as a teenager they will find later on in life that the area in which a break occurred, now has arthritis. It’s a painful lesson but it can also help to reinforce the importance of safety equipment like helmets and shin guards.

MRIs are another form of medical imaging that could a lot of benefits for those searching for arthritis solutions for when the condition increases in degree, the pain and swelling can cause blood vessels and muscles to become blocked and tensed. By using magnetic science  combined with computer technology, MRIs are a non-invasive, non-radiation procedure that help doctors determine whether a surgical procedure may bring relief from severe arthritic pain.

Living a life with arthritis is difficult no matter what age or what type of arthritis you have. While a cure is still on the horizon, the best thing that those who have this condition can do is to carefully monitor it as well as to find the safest solutions to help you manage your pain and continue on with your quality of life.

Visit us at Doctors Imaging in Metairie or make your appointment online to get an MRI or X-ray for your arthritis.