Carpal Tunnel Syndrome develops when a nerve that runs down your arm and into your hand is compressed at the level of your wrist. The carpal bones create a crescent that many tendons and your median nerve run through. The transverse carpal ligament creates a roof for the crescent and encloses the tendons and median nerve. When the median nerve is compressed you may experience weakness, numbness, and tingling into your hand. If compressed for long periods of time you may develop muscle atrophy and damage that is difficult to reverse. Your doctor may order nerve studies from a neurologist to help delineate the level and extent of nerve compression and damage.
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome may start conservatively. Wearing supportive wrist braces at night is often an initial step. This will help keep your wrists in a neutral position avoiding wrist flexion and further compression of the nerve. A corticosteroid injection may also be offered to help alleviate inflammation and symptoms.
Operative treatment may be offered if you have a severe case of nerve compression or if conservative treatments have been exhausted and your symptoms still persist. The surgery may be done open or endoscopically. In both cases, the transverse carpal ligament (the roof of the tunnel) is cut across its entire length. This allows the tunnel to open up and decompresses the median nerve. Cutting this ligament does will not cause loss of strength or function.
Full recovery after surgery takes about a month. Your doctor will probably prescribe a medication for pain control after surgery. Your wrist and hand will be bandaged for the first five days after surgery. After five days you will remove the bandage and cover the incision with a Band-Aid. At this point you can being range of motion with the wrist. Two weeks after surgery you will be seen in the office and have your stitches removed. At this point you can return to all activities. Generally physical therapy is not part of your recovery.
Read more about carpal tunnel syndrome here: http://www.assh.org/handcare/hand-arm-conditions/carpal-tunnel/
Video and link credit: American Society for Surgery of the Hand