Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder of the nerve that supplies sensation to your thumb, index finger and long finger. In patients with carpal tunnel syndrome, this nerve becomes compressed as it goes through a narrow tunnel while crossing the wrist joint. Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment can be treated non-surgically with a number of different methods including nighttime splinting, steroid injections or physical therapy. If these non-surgical options fail to improve your symptoms we may recommend carpal tunnel release surgery.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome frequently experience numbness and tingling in the hand, especially the thumb, index and long fingers. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be very painful, particularly at night. As a hand surgeon, I frequently see patients who complain of pain in their hands that wakes them from sleep in the night. This pain is often relieved by shaking the hands out, or getting up to walk around. As carpal tunnel syndrome progresses patients may begin dropping objects or have weakness with pinch and grip.
Nerves in our body are the main channels for transmitting information to and from our brain. The carpal tunnel houses the median nerve. The primary function of the median nerve is to deliver sensory information from our fingers to our brain. If this nerve becomes compressed, its ability to transmit these signals can be compromised. This compression can result in numbness in the fingers associated with this nerve. The thumb, index finger, long finger and ½ of the ring finger are the most commonly affected fingers in carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment
Depending on the severity and duration of our patient’s carpal tunnel symptoms, carpal tunnel treatment can be non-operative or operative. Non-operative treatments include night time splinting, steroid injection or physical therapy. Carpal tunnel release is a surgical procedure that relieves pressure on the median nerve by opening the area surrounding the nerve. This procedure is done on an outpatient basis with very good results. We typically recommend either a steroid injection, or a nerve study to confirm the diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome prior to proceeding with this operation.
After surgery, patients wear a soft dressing and bandage for the first 3 days. After that, they may remove the dressing and cover the incision with a band-aid. We see patients back in clinic two weeks after surgery to have their sutures removed. If patients had pain prior to surgery, this normally resolves quickly. Numbness and tingling takes longer to improve, and if patients were experiencing weakness, this resolves last. Most patients are mostly better by one month after surgery, but weakness may take several months to resolve.