“Doc, I can’t feel my fingers”

Numbness and tingling in the fingers is very a common condition. “Carpal tunnel syndrome”, or pressure on the median nerve at the wrist has an incidence of between 3-5% of the population. This presents with numbness, tingling or pins and needles in all or some of, the thumb, index, middle and part of the ring finger. It most commonly affects working age people and the elderly and is most common in females, but can affect anyone at any age. It usually first presents at night and wakes people up or when driving or whilst doing a specific repetitive task. At first symptoms are intermittent, but if left untreated, can progress to constant symptoms and weakness in the hand with wasting of the muscles of the thumb.

Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel syndrome is most often done clinically, with confirmatory tests such as ultrasound or nerve conduction studies only required in a few situations.

Initial treatment consists of a splint and hand therapy alone. But can need injections or surgery. Surgery is very straight forward, and can often be done under local anaesthetic as a brief 10-15 minute procedure.

Numbness and tingling in the ring and little finger is much less common and is from pressure on a different (ulna) nerve, usually at the elbow. However most of the time the symptoms are only experienced in the hand. The two syndromes are however, very similar in their presentation, and diagnosis, with the only difference being the fingers affected. For this reason if you develop these symptoms it is very helpful to pay close attention to exactly which fingers are affected.

Surgery for ulna nerve compression also known as “cubital tunnel syndrome”, is also a quick procedure taking about 25 minutes with a general anaesthetic.

Many people have these symptoms for many years not knowing that there is a quick and simple solution. Recently I had an elderly lady who had had intermittent symptoms for years and thought it was just a thing that happens when you get older. It was not until she went to her GP for an unrelated condition that she bought it up with him. 4 weeks later, after 3 years of symptoms occurring nearly every night, we took away all her symptoms with a 10 minute procedure. She was ecstatic.

Rodney Surgical Centre has a Specialist Hand Clinic and operating list once every 4 weeks.

Dr John Mutu-Grigg

BHB, MBChB, FRACS

Auckland Orthopaedic Surgeons

Appointments:            e: antonita@aklorthopaedics.co.nz

p: 09 280 3344

f:  09 280 3345

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