What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful condition due to the overuse of the hands and wrists. Anyone whose occupation involves repetitive wrist actions or strenuous hand and wrist movements is at risk. Pregnant women and older individuals are also more likely to suffer from CTS. The carpal tunnel is made up of one side by bones and the other side by a stout ligament. The median nerve is accompanied by 9 tendons through this tunnel, and whenever there is an increase in pressure from swelling or crowding, the nerve can get squeezed into this unyielding tunnel. This often causes numbness and tingling in the thumb, index, and middle fingers.
Symptoms Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
CTS develops gradually, usually beginning as an ache in the wrist that extends up the forearm or down into the hand. As CTS worsens, there may be tingling or numbness in the fingers, or pain radiating through the entire arm. Some people also experience weakness in the hand or arm and have difficulty grasping small objects. These symptoms are usually most severe when a person first wakes up.
Although most people associate carpal tunnel syndrome with pain and tingling in the fingers, it should be noted that the "pinky" finger is not affected. Anyone experiencing symptoms in the pinky may be suffering from another condition.
How to Treat Carpal Tunnel?
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. In the early stages, splinting or cortisone injection is likely to help symptoms. When symptoms persist, surgery is an excellent option and is the most reliable way to provide long lasting relief. There are different techniques available, but the least invasive technique available is endoscopic carpal tunnel release. This minimizes recovery time to typically just a week or 2. 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.
You may want to consider surgery to avoid long-term damage if you are showing signs of nerve damage or severe symptoms. This is because damage to the median nerve can be permanent and can affect function in the hand and fingers.
“I had suffered with carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands for 5 years, this past year being the worst, and all other treatments hadn’t worked. When I first met Dr. Peter DeNoble, we discussed the option of surgery. Well, as far as surgery goes it was an awesome experience. Dr. DeNoble and his assistant had such a peaceful way about them. I was very comfortable through the procedure and it was over in 20 minutes…” Click here to read more patient testimonials.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery Risks
Risk and complication rates are extremely low with this procedure. Major problems such as nerve damage happen in less than one percent of surgeries.
Although very rare, this is the list of possible complications: injury to nerves, blood vessels, and tendons, along with typical surgical risks such as infection.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery (Carpal Tunnel Release)
During Carpal Tunnel Surgery, also called Carpal Tunnel Release, Dr. Ghobadi inserts a tiny camera called an endoscope into the carpal tunnel. Once the nerve is protected and good visualization is achieved, Dr. Ghobadi uses very small cutting tools to cut the tight ligament that forms the ceiling of the tunnel, and thereby relieves compression on the nerve. This allows the tunnel to open up and decompresses the median nerve. Cutting this ligament does will not cause loss of strength or function. The miniature size of the equipment means that scars are minimized, there is less pain, and recovery is quicker.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery Recovery
Full recovery after carpal tunnel surgery takes about a month. Your doctor will probably prescribe a medication for pain control after surgery. During the first five days after surgery you will wear a bandage on your hand and wrist. After five days you will remove the bandage and cover the incision with a Band-Aid. At this point you can begin range of motion with the wrist. We will remove the stitches when you come into the office two weeks after your surgery. At this point you can return to all activities. Generally, physical therapy is not part of your recovery.
(For more post-op information, click here!)
Carpal Tunnel Surgery Results
After surgery, most patients have few if any of their former symptoms of pain and numbness in their hand and fingers. We have had phenomenal success at Advanced Orthopedics & Hand Surgery with this procedure. There are rare cases when the pain and numbness return. If the thumb muscles have been severely weakened or have wasted away by prolonged compression of the nerve, regaining hand strength and function may be limited, despite relieving the compression on the nerve.
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery is very successful at alleviating pressure on the median nerve running through the carpal tunnel. As noted above, there is less than a one percent chance of complications, including return of symptoms.
Schedule a Consultation
If you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and would like information on treatment, contact one of our New Jersey offices today! Call (973) 942-1315 to schedule a consultation with one of our orthopedic specialists.