What is carpal tunnel syndrome treatment?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a rather common syndrome, caused by an increased pressure on the median nerve, the nerve that crosses the front of your wrist. The median nerve runs through a tight tunnel and controls some of the muscles of the thumb.
What are common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms?
Common carpal tunnel symptoms include feelings of numbness, pain and tingling in the fingers and wrists and general feelings of achiness in the hand and arm. Carpal tunnel can have various causes, but is commonly caused by repetitive movement – such as using a computer keyboard for long periods of time each day or from playing certain sports.
What will happen during my consultation?
When you meet with your consultant surgeon they'll make sure you have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about your carpal tunnel treatment. They'll discuss with you what'll happen before, during and after the procedure and any pain you might experience. Take this time with your consultant surgeon to ensure your mind is put at rest.
How can carpal tunnel syndrome be treated?
There are several treatment options, including wearing a wrist support and doing certain exercises. However, for severe carpal tunnel sufferers, medical treatment may be advised.
Medical treatment can usually be performed under local anaesthetic and usually takes about a quarter of an hour.
Your surgeon will make a small cut in the palm of your hand. They will then cut the tight ligament (called the flexor retinaculum) that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel (see figure 1). This stops the nerve being compressed.
Getting treatment for your carpal tunnel syndrome will improve your quality of life by relieving the pain and numbness in your hand, allowing you to conduct day to day activities that you were not able to do before.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Depending on the severity of your symptoms there are other treatments you could try. A wrist support can help if there are mild symptoms, particularly worn during the night. The wrist splint will keep the hand in a neutral position, reducing any pressure on the carpal tunnel.
Steroid injections are also recommended for milder manifestations of the syndrome. They reduce the inflammation and will be applied depending on the recurrence of the condition.
If non-invasive treatments don’t manage to relieve the symptoms, then carpal tunnel release surgery is recommended.
What complications can happen?
Any surgery has a risk of developing complications like pain, bleeding, infection of the surgical wound or scarring.
The specific risks of this operation are
- continued numbness in your thumb, index and middle fingers
- tenderness of the scar
- aching in the wrist
- return of numbness and pain
- severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the hand (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome)
The consultant will discuss in full the risks ahead of the procedure.
How soon will I recover?
This surgery does not require overnight stay so you should be able to go home the same day.
The consultant will bandage your hand and may ask you to wear a sling for the next couple of days. To reduce swelling you need to keep your hand lifted, and also it is important to gently exercise your fingers, elbow and shoulder to prevent stiffness.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible following carpal tunnel syndrome treatment. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice.
Your symptoms may continue to improve for up to six months, or even longer if the carpal tunnel syndrome was related to work.