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Effective Carpal Tunnel Treatment: Relief for Hand and Wrist Pain

October 03, 2022

Orthopedics Primary Care Healthy Aging
Closeup woman holding her wrist pain from using computer.

Are you dropping things more frequently? Do you find that one hand is weaker than before? Are you feeling numbness, tingling or pain in that hand and arm? Do you experience random shock-like feelings from your wrist to several fingers? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome.

“Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common hand problems that prevents people from doing their job properly,” says Orthopedic Surgeon Barbaro J. Perez, M.D., with Riverside Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists Gloucester. “Every year, there are over 600,000 surgeries in the U.S. for this condition. But when caught early, it’s often easily treated without surgery, so don’t wait to get diagnosed,” adds Orthopedic Surgeon Steven J. Hospodar, M.D., also with Riverside Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists Gloucester.

Drs. Perez and Hospodar explain the common causes and treatments for CTS. 

How did I get CTS?

“Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when a major nerve to your hand, called the median nerve, is squeezed as it moves through the wrist,” explains Dr. Hospodar. “This nerve gives you feeling in every finger except your pinky. When this nerve goes through your wrist, it passes through the carpal tunnel. So when your wrist swells, that tunnel gets squeezed, pinches your median nerve and causes your symptoms.”

CTS is found most often in women and older people. Anyone diagnosed with CTS can usually identify more than one reason why they developed this condition. Other factors that contribute to CTS include:

  • Repetition of the same hand and wrist motions or activities over time
  • Position of your hand and wrist
  • Pregnancy
  • Health conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and thyroid gland imbalance
  • Heredity

Nonsurgical treatments for CTS

For most people, CTS will slowly get worse without treatment. Seeing a doctor for an evaluation and diagnosis when you begin to experience symptoms can help prevent surgery later.

“If we catch your CTS while it’s in the early stages, we may be able to slow or stop its progression,” says Dr. Perez.

Nonsurgical treatments include:

  • Bracing or splinting your wrist while sleeping and during certain daily tasks
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen
  • Changing or modifying your activities
  • Steroid injections into the carpal tunnel
  • Specific exercises

Minimally invasive surgery for CTS

If nonsurgical treatments don’t relieve your symptoms after a period of time, or if you experience constant numbness, then you may need surgery to prevent irreversible damage.

“At Riverside, we use endoscopic, which is Dr. Hospodar’s preferred method, and mini open incision techniques, which is the method I use. Both methods allow our patients to recover and return to work faster than they would with the traditional open surgery," says Dr. Perez. “With these minimally invasive procedures, we make smaller cuts in your wrist and arm, so you’ll also experience less pain as you recover.”

During the endoscopic procedure, Dr. Hospodar will make an opening in your wrist, and possibly another in your arm, that are only about a half-inch each. Then, he’ll place a tiny camera in one of the openings. This camera will guide him as he cuts the ligament to relieve pressure on your median nerve.

For the mini open incision procedure, Dr. Perez makes one small incision at the base of your palm to access the carpal tunnel.

No more weakness, numbness or pain!

After surgery, you will have some pain, swelling and stiffness for the first few weeks, and you may need to wear a splint or wrist brace. But by the second or third month, your grip and pinch strength will usually return. As you heal, you’ll gradually use your hand for more activities, continuing to avoid major discomfort.

“A complete recovery could take up to one year,” says Dr. Hospodar. “Fortunately, this surgery is so effective that it’s rare to have a patient experience a recurrence.”

To have your wrist examined and treated for CTS, schedule an appointment with your doctor.

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