What’s the Difference Between Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

What’s the Difference Between Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Cubital Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome share similar symptoms, but they are distinct conditions affecting different nerves in the elbow and wrist. 

If you’re experiencing pain and numbness in your fingers, you may assume you have carpal tunnel syndrome. But did you know another condition — called cubital tunnel syndrome — could also be the source of these symptoms?

Both carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome result from nerve compression; however, the damaged nerve for each is located in a different part of the body. In cubital tunnel syndrome, the ulnar nerve within the elbow becomes compressed due to injury or repeated bending of the elbow. The ulnar nerve sits inside the cubital tunnel, a passageway consisting of bone, muscle, and ligaments.

On the other hand, the compressed nerve causing carpal tunnel syndrome is the median nerve in the wrist. Repetitive motions of the hand and wrist (such as typing), fractures, and sprains are typically to blame. In addition, chronic conditions such as diabetes and arthritis are considered risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Despite some similarities — compressed nerves, hand pain, weakness when gripping objects — cubital tunnel syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome are characterized by several differences. Knowing the symptoms for each can help you identify which condition you may have and determine the right treatment.

Carpal Tunnel vs. Cubital Tunnel

Both syndromes affect the hand and fingers, but the pain, tingling, and numbness of carpal tunnel syndrome is felt most acutely in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. It’s also characterized by pain and burning in the hand and wrist that sometimes radiates up the forearm to the elbow.

Meanwhile, cubital tunnel syndrome is marked by numbness, pain, and tingling in the little and ring fingers as well as the inside of the hand. If you have cubital tunnel syndrome, you may notice these symptoms flare up at night when you bend your elbow for long periods as you sleep.

Diagnosing cubital tunnel syndrome or carpal tunnel syndrome begins with a physical examination. An orthopedist may also perform a nerve conduction study to assess nerve impulses in the wrist or elbow. Weak nerve activity in a certain area could indicate, for example, carpal tunnel syndrome.

Treating the Symptoms

Treatment options differ for each syndrome, although conservative therapies are recommended at first to reduce symptoms and restore function to the hand. Because cubital tunnel symptoms are more pronounced at night, you might be advised to wear a brace that straightens the elbow while you rest. Wrapping your arm in a towel to keep it straight can work as well.

If conservative treatments fail to relieve the nerve compression or muscle wasting is severe, surgery is another option. Two types of cubital tunnel surgery are currently performed: a medical epicondylectomy and an ulnar nerve transposition. In a medial epicondylectomy, the bony bump inside the elbow (the medial epicondyle) is removed. This allows the ulnar nerve to flex and straighten without pain. For an ulnar nerve transposition, the surgeon creates a new cubital tunnel and moves the ulnar nerve to the recreated tunnel.

Treating carpal tunnel syndrome non-surgically usually entails resting the hand, avoiding activities that aggravate symptoms, wearing a splint for several weeks, and applying ice to reduce swelling. Anti-inflammatories and steroids may also be prescribed. Once the pain subsides, you can practice exercises to stretch and strengthen the wrist and hand.

If these conservative treatments don’t alleviate carpal tunnel symptoms, surgery to relieve pressure on the median nerve by cutting the transverse carpal ligament may be necessary. This procedure is followed by physical therapy to strengthen the wrist.

What’s Causing Your Hand Pain?

If you’re experiencing hand and finger pain, you may be suffering from either cubital tunnel syndrome or carpal tunnel syndrome. The doctors at Comprehensive Orthopaedics can diagnose your condition and prescribe the proper treatment regimen. Whether through conservative therapy or surgery, our goal is to help our patients live pain-free. Contact us today for an appointment.

How to Prevent Golfer’s Elbow This Year

How to Prevent Golfer’s Elbow This Year

Don’t let elbow pain keep you from enjoying a day at the golf course.

Avid golfers eagerly anticipate the start of spring so they can once again head to the golf course and enjoy an afternoon in the sun. Yet as you inspect your clubs to make sure they’re in top shape for the first swings of the season, you should also pay attention to any aches and pains in your body.

If you’ve played golf for many years, you’ve probably heard the term golfer’s elbow — or even may have suffered from the condition. Golfer’s elbow, known medically as medial epicondylitis, stems from repeated movements that inflame the tendons in the inner elbow. A burning pain centered on the inside of the elbow is the most prominent symptom, but you may also experience stiffness in the joint, weakness in the wrist and hand, as well as numbness in the fingers.

Fortunately, golfer’s elbow can be prevented with a few simple measures. And even if you do experience pain in the inner elbow, it shouldn’t keep you off the links for long, as the condition generally responds well to conservative treatment methods.

Preventing Golfer’s Elbow

As with any sport or physical activity, proper warm-up is key to avoiding injury. For golfers in particular, that means strengthening your forearm muscles by lifting light weights or squeezing a tennis ball. You can also ask a golf instructor for tips on how to improve your form. If you lock your lead arm when you swing, for instance, you’ll put too much torque on your elbow and strain the tendons. Lastly, you might want to consider switching from older golfing irons to graphite clubs.

Treating Golfer’s Elbow

If you believe you may have golfer’s elbow, your doctor will perform a physical examination to assess your level of pain and stiffness by applying pressure to the joint and having you move your elbow, wrist, and fingers. An X-ray can help determine if there is another cause of the pain, such as arthritis or a fracture.

The first step in addressing golfer’s elbow is to stop playing golf or any activity that causes discomfort until the pain subsides. During this time, you can try some at-home treatments, such as covering the elbow with an ice pack three or four times a day for 15 minutes. Your doctor may also outfit you with a customized brace to provide extra support to the elbow tendons. Over-the-counter pain medication helps reduce discomfort, and in some cases, your doctor may recommend a steroid injection.

After a rest period of three to six weeks, you’ll begin physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons and improve your range of motion. You can expect a complete recovery with conservative treatment in four to six months.

Surgery is only advised if conservative treatments have not been able to eliminate pain. In this minimally invasive operation, a surgeon cuts two small incisions into the elbow and views the joint through a telescope. Any damaged tendon tissue is then removed. Physical therapy follows about two months after the surgery, and full recovery takes between four to six months.

Get Back Into the Swing of Things

Summer is on it’s way, and if you’re a golfer, you’ll want to enjoy your favorite sport without any pain. At Comprehensive Orthopaedics, our staff of doctors will help you overcome any discomfort, and show you ways to keep your arms healthy for the swings you’ll take this season. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

Living With Repetitive Strain Injury

Living With Repetitive Strain Injury

MONDAY, July 29, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Repetitive strain injury (RSI) can affect anyone who uses his or her hands a lot and repeats the same movements over and over again. It can develop whether you’re working at a computer all day or spending hours of leisure time immersed in handicrafts.

At first, symptoms — like pain and tingling — may go away once you stop the motions or the activity. But without treatment, including lifestyle changes, symptoms are likely to become so severe that you could become unable to continue with your work or hobby.

Recognizing RSI Symptoms

  • Pain or burning
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Swelling
  • Soreness

Don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you experience one or more of these symptoms — don’t assume that a few days off is enough to stop RSI. If the source of pain isn’t addressed, symptoms can become irreversible.

Part of the solution is to take regular breaks from problematic but necessary activities throughout the day. Get up and move around for at least five minutes every half-hour, and stretch your arms, wrists and fingers.

Practice good posture. When sitting, your head and back should form a straight line from ears to hips. When at the computer, don’t let your wrists bend to one side. Keep them in line with your forearms, fingers slightly curved over your keyboard. Don’t self-treat by wearing a splint or using a wrist rest — both can interfere with natural movement and blood circulation.

More Typing Tips to Try

  • Use all fingers to type, not just one
  • Use keyboard shortcuts
  • Take advantage of voice recognition software

Also, consider investigating the Alexander Technique, an approach to movement aimed at better posture and body mechanics helpful for RSI.

More information

You can learn more about the Alexander Technique online.

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Health Tip: Joint Popping and Cracking

Health Tip: Joint Popping and Cracking

(HealthDay News) — Most people have popping and cracking of their joints, especially as they age.

Though the reasons behind these sounds are unclear, doctors think they may be caused by ligaments stretching and releasing, or the compression of nitrogen bubbles.

Usually, the phenomenon doesn’t need treatment. However, if these sounds are accompanied by swelling and pain, seeing a doctor is recommended, says Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Tendinitis

Tendinitis

Tendonitis can affect anybody, from office workers to athletes. Here’s how to keep your symptoms under control.

Tendonitis is a common problem, affecting athletes, office workers, and musicians alike. Indeed, it can affect almost any part of the body, though it’s most common in the tendons of the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and knees. Some of the most frequent types include patellar tendinitis (or “jumper’s knee”), lateral epicondylitis in the elbow (or “tennis elbow”), and Achilles tendinitis.

As common as it is, however, tendonitis can be a debilitating condition, creating chronic pain and greatly restricting the patient’s range of motion. Fortunately, some basic knowledge of its common causes and symptoms can help you seek relief from this condition.

CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF TENDONITIS

Tendons are strands of elastic fibrous tissue that connect muscles to bones, providing stability to the joints and enabling a free range of motion. Any tendon in the body can become inflamed or irritated, causing pain, tenderness, and swelling in the affected tissue.

The most common cause of tendonitis is prolonged stress or gradual wear caused by repetitive movements, though it can also be caused by sudden trauma. As a result, most people develop tendonitis while performing their jobs, enjoying hobbies that rely on a specific joint, or playing sports A typist, for example, is most likely to have tendonitis in the wrist, while weightlifters may suffer from biceps tendinitis. Aging also increases the likelihood of developing tendonitis, since tendons become less flexible with age.

TREATMENT FOR TENDONITIS

The severity of tendonitis can vary greatly depending on the specific cause of the inflammation and the particular tendon affected. Most cases of tendonitis, however, can be successfully treated without surgery. Some of the most common courses of treatment include:

  • Resting the affected area
  • Avoiding activities that cause flare-ups or increased pain
  • Taking over the counter anti-inflammatories like Advil or Aleve
  • Physical Therapy
  • Cortisone Injections

If your tendonitis does not respond to these conservative treatments, the inflamed tendon may need to be repaired with a minimally invasive surgery. During the procedure, your surgeon will mend any tears in the tendon and remove any permanently damaged tissue.

Since tendonitis is an injury that often results from overuse, the best treatment in many cases is simply to refrain from using the joint in question. Some effective preventative measures include stretching before exercise, wearing protective braces, using proper technique when lifting, and always maintaining correct posture.

Whether you suffer from tennis elbow or jumper’s knee, our team at New York Bone and Joint can help. With decades of combined experience in treating injured tendons, our specialists are able to provide comprehensive assistance at every stage of the process, from identifying the source of the problem to crafting a personalized treatment plan. If you worry that you may have tendonitis, contact us today to schedule a consultation.

What Is a Cortisone Shot?

What Is a Cortisone Shot?

Cortisone shots can potentially provide long-lasting relief from pain and inflammation in the joints.

Many injections can greatly reduce pain and inflammation caused by musculoskeletal injuries or chronic conditions such as arthritis, significantly shortening recovery timelines and providing lasting relief. One shot we particularly recommend to patients entails an injection of cortisone into a damaged joint. We’ll tell you what you need to know about this tried-and-true treatment for pain and inflammation in the joints.

What Is a Cortisone Shot?

A cortisone shot is an injection composed of a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic. Used to relieve pain and inflammation, it’s most commonly injected into a joint, often in the shoulder, hip, or knee. These shots are often one option in a comprehensive treatment plan for chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, tendinitis, or rotator cuff impingements or tears.

How Long Does a Cortisone Shot Last?

A cortisone shot’s effectiveness depends on the severity of the patient’s condition. In most cases, pain and inflammation will marginally increase for about 48 hours following the injection, and will decrease precipitously thereafter. In some cases, a single injection can provide relief for as long as several months.

Generally, cortisone shots should only be given two times per joint per year. Repeated cortisone injections can damage the cartilage in the joint.

What Are the Side Effects of a Cortisone Shot?

Cortisone shots are typically safe in moderation, but since they infrequently lead to serious complications, they should be taken under a doctor’s supervision. Be sure to let your doctor know if you suffer from diabetes or other any other conditions affecting your blood sugar levels, as well as any medications that you are currently taking.

Most cortisone shots have some minor side effects, including a temporary uptick in pain and inflammation in and around the joint, and a thinning and lightening of the skin around the site of the injection. In some cases, however, they can result in a sudden spike in blood sugar if you’re diabetic and have poorly controlled blood sugar levels. .

What If the Cortisone Shot Doesn’t Work?

Cortisone shots provide a source of temporary relief from inflammation and pain. They will not solve the underlying problem, and pain may gradually return as the shot’s effectiveness subsides. As a result, cortisone shots should be administered as part of a more comprehensive treatment plan that may include physical therapy or surgery.

Fortunately, our team of orthopedic specialists at Comprehensive Orthopaedics has several years of experience in treating joint problems. Regardless of your specific condition, we’ll work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that provides lasting relief from your symptoms.

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