An In-Depth Look at Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Follow along as hand specialist, Craig Dimitris, M.D., explains what Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is, common risk factors, how Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is diagnosed, conservative and surgical treatment options, and the post-surgical recovery process.
Repetitive and overuse motions such as texting, driving or frequent computer use can cause pain, tingling and numbness in the hand or wrist. The culprit? Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a condition in which the wrist’s median nerve is “squeezed” or compressed. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is one of the most common conditions treated by the Hand and Wrist specialists at Orthopedic ONE, and is considered to be the most common nerve compression in the upper extremity.
Who is at Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- Older adults
- Certain contributing medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or a thyroid gland imbalance
- Hormonal imbalance
- Previous repetitive or overuse injuries
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is typically diagnosed during a clinical exam. Your doctor will take into account your symptoms and perform a physical examination of your hand and wrist.
- Your physician may recommend an Electromyography (EMG), a nerve conduction test, which will measure the speed of the nerves in the arm. This test can help rule out other nerve compression or musculoskeletal issues. EMGs can also rate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome severity, which can determine the prognosis for various treatment options.
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?
- Borderline to Mild Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Many who are diagnosed with borderline to mild Carpal Tunnel Syndrome find relief using a brace at night. This helps prevent bending their wrists and hands while sleeping.
- Moderate to Severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Some who suffer from moderate to severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome also use a brace at night, as this may provide temporary relief. However, at these stages, many turn to cortisone injections or steroid shots, which can offer relief ranging from a few days to a few months. To learn more about common conservative treatment methods, click here.
- Hand Therapy is another conservative treatment that can offer relief to those suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and be beneficial pre or post operative, or as an alternative to surgery.
- In some cases, surgery is the most definitive option, as Carpal Tunnel surgery allows for your surgeon to open up the tissue that forms at the root of the Carpal Tunnel nerve. This decompresses the nerve, taking pressure off the hand and wrist that causes the numbness, tingling and pain. To learn more about Carpal Tunnel Release, click here.
Expectations After Carpal Tunnel Surgery
- Symptoms usually start to improve within the first few weeks after surgery.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms do not appear overnight and they don’t fully disappear right after surgery. Full recovery typically takes a few months.
- Most patients go home the same day they have surgery. Patients are asked to ice and elevate the area for the first few days following their procedure and to keep the dressing clean.
- Oftentimes patients can do everyday tasks like typing on their phone, dressing themselves and feeding themselves right away.
- Patents can expect some soreness at the palm of the hand near the surgery site. This usually lasts between two to six weeks after surgery.
- Most physicians ask to see patients back in the office for a follow up visit to remove their stitches 10-14 days after surgery.
- Most patents can expect to go back to office based jobs within one week after surgery. Those who have jobs that require a lot of pushing, pulling or lifting are often back at work within four to six weeks after surgery.
- The majority of patients are able to resume all normal activities within six to eight weeks after surgery. However, it is not uncommon for patients to still experience some numbness or tingling for up to a year after surgery.