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Finger, Hand, Wrist Pain

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Steroid shots provide ‘temporary relief’ from carpal tunnel

13 Sep 2013
Steroid shots provide ‘temporary relief’ from carpal tunnel News image

New Swedish research has found that steroid shots can temporarily relieve the painful symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

But three out of four patients who received steroids, needed surgery within a year, researchers found.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder of the hand caused by pressure on nerves that run through the wrist. Symptoms include numbness, pins and needles, and pain.

An estimated one million Australians suffer from the condition.

Most affected are those who perform repetitive tasks such as assembly line workers or data entry.

Steroid shots can be used to reduce tendon swelling and ease pressure on the nerve.

The new research, from doctors at Hassleholm Hospital in Sweden involved 111 patients aged 18 to 70 with carpal tunnel syndrome who had no previous steroid injections. Doctors treated two-thirds of the patients with injections of methylprednisolone, a type of steroid.

Within 10 weeks, people who received steroid injections were less likely to report pain, numbness, tingling or other symptoms.

Surgery is usually successful

Three out of four patients who received steroids, however, needed surgery within one year.

Those most likely to benefit from steroid shots are people under 30 with mild symptoms and less pressure on their median nerve.

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is based on the seriousness of the condition.

The main goal is to allow you to return to your normal function by reducing inflammation of the nerve in the wrist.

If treated early, carpal tunnel symptoms usually go away with nonsurgical treatment.

But surgery to open up the carpal tunnel and relieve pressure on the nerve remains the most effective treatment for moderate to severe cases.

Surgery involves cutting the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel. This relieves the pressure on the median nerve and is generally successful.

Nonsurgical treatment includes:

  • Wearing splints or braces to keep your wrists straight
  • Performing stretching exercises on your wrists
  • Taking frequent work breaks
  • Rotating work tasks
  • Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication
  • Learning ways to protect your joints while performing everyday tasks
  • Evaluating any other medical problems that might contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome, and changing your treatment if necessary
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