In your upper body — from your shoulders to your wrists — orthopedic problems are common. McLeod Orthopedic Specialist Bryan Christensen, MD explains how he treats problems, such as rotator cuff injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Here are highlights from Dr. Christensen’s comments:
I see a lot of rotator cuff injuries, such as a tear, strain or tendonitis. We also see shoulder arthritis in the elderly or the active population. For the treatment of those, we can diagnose and repair injuries with arthroscopy.
We use very small incisions, reattaching the tendon to the bone and allowing it to heal. Patients regain their functionality of their shoulder and, hopefully, return to activities they like.
What leads a rotator cuff injury? Usually, it’s just wear and tear over the years. As we get older, the tendons lose their flexibility and resilience. In mature adults, a relatively minor injury could potentially cause a rotator cuff tear. Something as simple as a car door opening forcibly and you put your arm out to try to stop it. That basic action can cause that tendon to tear.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by compression of a nerve in the wrist. There is a band of tissue that goes across the top of the wrist that can put pressure on the medial nerve. That’s the nerve that provides sensation for the thumb, index and middle fingers.
Overuse can lead to inflammation and swelling of the tendons put pressure on nerves in the wrist. The result is numbness, tingling and pain in the wrist. At worst, a person will experience loss of grip strength, drop items or have difficulties, in such action as turning a key in a door.
There are many treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. We start by recommending modified activities and applying a brace. If a person has repetitive motion of the wrist, it can be an aggravating factor that increases symptoms. A wrist brace may provide symptomatic relief. We can also try anti-inflammatory medications to shrink the swelling around the nerve and tendons, reducing pressure on the nerve. We can also try injections, which offer temporary relief. However, the pain may return requiring additional injections.
The final option for a person that has failed other treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome is surgery called a carpal tunnel release. Going through and cutting that band of tissue that puts pressure on the nerve and, thereby, allowing the nerve to have more room, reducing pain.