My 78-year-old mother has carpal tunnel syndrome in her right hand. It's so severe she can't hold a book or even the phone. What can be done for her?

Early treatment after symptoms begin is the key to success with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). A six to eight week trial of therapy is the first step. This may include anti-inflammatory drugs and physical or occupational therapy.

If the symptoms aren't better, surgery may be the next step. A band of tissue across the carpal tunnel is released to take pressure off the median nerve. Even with severe CTS and/or a delay in treatment, studies show most patients get better.

If treatment is delayed too long, full return to normal may not happen.