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Published on June 21, 2022

wrist pain concept

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with Hand Surgery

You use your hands so frequently throughout the day, it’s easy to take them for granted. So when your hands develop a health condition or injury, it interrupts everything from your work, caring for your home, hobbies and more.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a well-known hand condition that affects one of the main nerves in the wrist area. The median nerve provides sensation to your fingers. This important nerve runs through the carpal tunnel formed by small wrist bones and a covering ligament called the transverse carpal ligament.

A repetitive use injury, carpal tunnel is a personal, developmental problem resulting in increased pressure on the median nerve. When you perform repetitive movements with your hand, the transverse ligament swells and pushes on the median nerve.

The result is pain, numbness, tingling and weakness of the hand. In severe cases, the symptoms can wake you up in the middle of the night.

Conservative treatment measures such as activity modification, bracing, physical therapy and/or injections may help alleviate your symptoms.

“Unfortunately, pain doesn’t always resolve itself no matter how good our intentions,” said Scott McPherson, MD, orthopedic hand surgeon of Avera Orthopedics. “Surgery is recommended when nonsurgical measures do not relieve the hand symptoms.”

Read more about nonsurgical options.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery Options

Carpal tunnel surgery is typically performed as an open approach through a small incision at the base of the palm, or an endoscopic approach, which uses a small incision and camera.

In both cases, the transverse carpal ligament covering and compressing the median nerve is cut to relieve the pressure on the nerve.

Options for anesthesia include local anesthetic only, local with IV sedation, or you can be put to sleep.

Recovery Time

Post-surgery recovery varies from patient to patient, but often leads to fast, positive results.

After surgery, most patients see an improvement right away in their symptoms and experience better hand coordination. They usually don’t need bracing and can immediately resume activities of daily living and increase activities as tolerated.

Most patients are back to full use by 4 to 6 weeks, but maximum recovery in sensation and strength may take several months. Only some patients are recommended hand therapy to help guide the recovery process.

Bob Foster and Dr Scott McPhersonBob’s Carpal Tunnel Story

Bob Foster has been an electrician for more than 30 years. A career of repetitive movements caused a growing pain in his hand over the course of two years. The pain interrupted everything from sleeping to driving his motorcycle.

“I’d often have to drive one-handed, shaking out the numbness and tingling in one hand and then the other,” Foster said.

Foster’s surgery was scheduled following an appointment with McPherson.

Each hand only took six minutes, and Foster stayed awake through his surgeries with a local anesthetic.

He now experiences no pain in his hands and regained the strength he once lost.

“I’m so thankful that I went ahead and had surgery; my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner,” Foster said.

If you’re experiencing uncomfortable symptoms, contact your local Avera Orthopedics to learn about your treatment options.

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