Unlike most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, where symptoms develop slowly over weeks or months, acute carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when an injury or other incident triggers a quick onset of pain in the wrist, fingers or palm area.
The carpal tunnel is located in each wrist and extends to the hand. This tunnel holds a number of ligaments, tendons and nerves that are especially affected by the pinching, grabbing or bending of the wrist.
Acute carpal tunnel syndrome is usually caused by a sudden injury, such as a fracture or sprain in the wrist. It can also be caused by a tumor, snake bite, blood clot or burn in that area.
The most common treatment for acute carpal tunnel syndrome is surgical decompression. During this surgery, a doctor relieves the pressure on the median nerve, which restores blood flow to the area and prevents nerve damage.
Elevation and support of the wrist and forearm may relieve carpal tunnel syndrome when it is first diagnosed. If pressure on the carpal tunnel is not relieved with these measures, surgery is then considered.
Most cases of acute carpal tunnel syndrome are best treated within a few hours of when the trauma occured. The delay between diagnosis and intervention leads to a longer recovery period.