In today’s hands-on working environment, one of the most common overuse medical conditions is carpal tunnel syndrome. It occurs when the median nerve in your wrist – which carries signals for sensation and muscle movement between your brain and your fingers – is compressed or entrapped and cannot function properly. As a result, you may feel pain, numbness, and a tingling sensation in your fingers, wrist, and arms. Interestingly, it can affect all fingers except the pinkie.
Carpal tunnel syndrome has gotten a lot of attention in the past two decades due to the repeated use of our hands for such things as using a computer keyboard or tablet and texting on our phones. However, the condition can also be caused by many other factors and medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, joint dislocation, or factures. Also, women can develop carpal tunnel syndrome due to swelling from fluid retention as a result of natural hormonal changes during pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome, or menopause.
It is estimated that carpal tunnel syndrome affects up to 10% of the population, although it is more common among women and those who are between the ages of 30 and 60. As a result of this condition, many people have difficulty performing simple daily activities, such as grasping and gripping, due to weakness or discomfort.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can develop into long-term disability if it is not medically addressed. The good news is that there are successful outpatient surgical procedures to remove pressure on the median nerve if nonsurgical options for treating carpal tunnel syndrome do not work for you.
Standard Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Surgical Procedures
The standard surgery for treating carpal tunnel syndrome is called open release. During this procedure, your surgeon administers a local or regional anesthetic to numb the hand and wrist area, and then creates a two- to three-inch opening along the palm. This allows access to the transverse carpal ligament, which is essentially the rooftop of the carpal tunnel which houses the median nerve.
Next, the surgeon makes an incision in the transverse carpal ligament in order to open the tunnel and make it larger, thereby relieving the pressure on the median nerve. The time it takes to perform an open release procedure is only about 15 minutes.
An alternative surgical option for carpal tunnel syndrome is called endoscopic carpal tunnel release. In this type of surgery, a thin device with a light and a lens called an endoscope is inserted through a small incision, allowing the surgeon to view the carpal tunnel without disturbing nearby tissues. The endoscope may be used in conjunction with a camera or video system.
An advantage of the endoscopic carpal tunnel release method is that it spares some of the tissue in the palm, which helps the patient heal faster and experience less discomfort.
Recovery from Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Following the surgery, your wrist will likely be bandaged or in a splint for a week or two. Your surgeon will encourage you to move your fingers during this period to help prevent stiffness and to keep your affected hand elevated while sleeping to help decrease swelling. You may experience some pain in your hand and wrist after the surgery, but this can be controlled with prescribed pain medication.
When the bandages or splint is removed, you may begin a specialized hand physical therapy program. This is designed to improve the movement of your wrist and hand, speed up the healing process, and strengthen the affected area. However, you may still need to wear a splint or brace for a month or more following surgery, depending on your individual rate of recovery, which can take anywhere from a few days to a few months.
Of course, you will need to modify your work routine and other activities while you heal. Your surgeon will discuss any activity restrictions you will need to follow after the surgery in order to ensure success.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief in Watertown, New York
If you are developing difficulty in using your hands, there is no need to live with the disabling pain of carpal tunnel syndrome. The surgeons here at North Country Orthopaedic Group can effectively treat your condition with a variety of surgical and nonsurgical options.
To schedule an evaluation with one of our board-certified orthopedic surgeons, call us today at (315) 782-1650 or request an appointment via our online form now. We look forward to hearing from you!