Carpal tunnel surgery is a procedure designed to address the numbness, tingling, and discomfort produced by carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can develop quite slowly. At first, maybe your hand tingles a little bit. You try to shake out the feeling, as though your fingers were simply asleep. But that doesn’t work. Eventually, the numbness of your fingers becomes constant, impacting your ability to grasp objects and use your hand.
When other therapies are unable to address these symptoms, the orthopedic surgeons at Yankton Medical Clinic will usually recommend carpal tunnel surgery.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a compressed nerve.
Your median nerve travels along your arm, through your wrist (there’s a hole in your wrist called, you guessed it, the carpal tunnel), and into your hand. In some individuals, that nerve can become irritated and inflamed; in others, the carpal tunnel may simply grow a little cramped. When that nerve becomes pressured and compressed in that small carpal tunnel, you’ll likely begin feeling the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome will vary from individual to individual. In most cases, however, symptoms will include some of the following:
- Numbness: For most people, carpal tunnel syndrome will cause numbness in some combination of the index finger, the middle finger, and thumb. The numbness may begin as intermittent, but could eventually become constant.
- Pain: Though this symptom is less common, some individuals may experience pain in the same fingers.
- Motor weakness: As carpal tunnel syndrome progresses, some individuals may experience a loss of motor function or a sense of weakness in the hands. You may have difficulty holding on to objects or drop objects unintentionally.
Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Caused by Repetitive Motion?
Most people think of carpal tunnel syndrome as something that is caused by using the hands for repetitive tasks (such as typing or certain forms of manual labor). And that’s true, to a point. For some people, repetitive wrist movements can indeed cause the ligaments surrounding the median nerve to become inflamed.
But many carpal tunnel patients at the Yankton Medical Clinic do not report any such repetitive motion in their history. So there are additional factors which can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. This could include everything from general inflammation to rheumatoid arthritis and other nerve conditions.
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?
Your Yankton Medical Clinic orthopedic physician may take several steps to diagnose your carpal tunnel syndrome. Usually, that begins with careful documentation of your symptoms. If your symptoms are inconclusive, or if your doctor needs more information, further diagnostics may be ordered. Those diagnostics could include:
- Nerve conduction study
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?
For most people, treating carpal tunnel syndrome is going to involve behavioral changes, such as taking more frequent breaks. Your doctor may advise you to wear a brace or prescribe a corticosteroid.
For more extreme cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, or when other treatments have not worked, your Yankton Medical Clinic orthopedic surgeon may advise carpal tunnel surgery.
What is Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
Carpal tunnel surgery is an outpatient procedure designed to take some pressure off of the median nerve. This can be accomplished in a couple of different ways, depending on your symptoms and condition, though most approaches will have the same intention: trimming away the tendons that put pressure on the median nerve as it moves through the carpal tunnel.
The first technique is called endoscopic surgery. A surgeon will make a small incision and insert a tiny camera that is used to guide the incisions.
The second approach is called open surgery. This method requires an incision along the palm. The larger incisions allows the surgeon to operate more openly and with more flexibility, but it will also increase recovery time.
What to Expect After Carpal Tunnel Surgery
How long is recovery from carpal tunnel surgery? The answer depends on the approach. Some patients may be able to return to work in several days (especially if the endoscopic method is used). But it may take several weeks or months for ligaments to heal to the point where the wrist is fully mobile again.
Every patient will be given individualized recovery instructions by their surgeon to ensure an optimal recovery. After carpal tunnel surgery, exercises may be prescribed by your surgeon to keep your wrist healthy and promote healing. In many cases, carpal tunnel surgery after care is nearly as important as the procedure itself!
Is Carpal Tunnel Surgery Right for Me?
Carpal tunnel surgery isn’t going to be right for everyone. Talk to your Yankton Clinic orthopedic surgeon about the best way to treat your carpal tunnel syndrome!
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