We all use our hands all the time with no problem but any activities involving hands might seem like a chore if you feel any kind of pain. If you have carpel tunnel syndrome, for example, and you experience pain or numbness and tingling in your hands then you definitely benefit from the treatments available. One sure way to treat carpal tunnel syndrome is through surgery – it’s especially necessary in cases where the patient has dealt with it for a long time. Getting it treated on time will allow for a safe recovery without the risk of getting nerve damage.
In this article we’re going to discuss carpal tunnel and answer all of your questions regarding the procedure – how is the surgery performed, how to ensure fast recovery, and what costs to expect. All of those questions will be discussed in detail so read ahead!
What’s carpal tunnel syndrome?
The Carpal tunnel is a condition in which the tunnel narrows and puts pressure on the median nerve. This can result in pain, numbness and tingling, and even weakness in the hand and wrist. The main carpal tunnel symptoms are numbness or tingling (which sometimes can go up to your fingers), weakness (and even having trouble holding things).
For a lot of patients, those symptoms are not felt all the time but rather when they’re holding something or when they wake up.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Causes
While we as patients often don’t know what may have caused our carpel tunnel, there might a couple of medical reasons for it. Those include medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, arthritis, diabetes or obesity. Carpal tunnel may also be caused by certain movements of the hand, especially if they are repeated a lot. Pregnancy is another contributing factor.
According to medical professionals, some people are more prone to getting carpal tunnel. For example, women tend to get carpal tunnel three times more than men. Or people with jobs that require certain repetitive movements of the hand.
Should I go for a carpal tunnel surgery?
If you have continuous symptoms that don’t go away with other treatments, it’s possible to consider surgery. Go to your doctor or an orthopedist who will give you advice and perform some tests to see if you need surgical procedure.
During the consultation with your doctor tell them about everything you experience. They might perform some tests to get a proper diagnosis such as an X-ray or an ultrasound. They might also do an electromyogram – a test used to measure the electrical activity of a muscle. Or another test they might do is to measure the signals in the nerves of the arm.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery
The carpal tunnel surgery is also called carpal tunnel release. It’s performed to treat and relieve the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. During the procedure, the doctor will divide the carpal ligament in the wrist to relieve the pressure put on the nerve.
Usually, the carpal tunnel surgery is suggested to patients who have tried non-surgical methods to relieve their pain but to no effect.
Types of Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Carpal Tunnel surgeries can be divided into two subtypes endoscopic surgery and open surgery. Medical specialists still debate over which method is better. They both have their pros and cons, so let’s look at them in detail.
Endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery vs open surgery
- Open carpal tunnel release surgery: during the open surgery the surgeon will make an incision on the palm of the hand. This is done so that the surgeon can release the carpal ligament completely and to ensure that the median nerve will not be damaged. Usually, the surgeon does a long incision but they can decide depending on their preference.
- Endoscopic carpal tunnel release: the doctor cuts a small incision (much smaller than the one in the open one) on the wrist. Then the surgeon inserts a small camera so that the ligament can be seen from the inside. The camera has a small blade that will cut the ligament while the surgeon observes trough the camera and makes sure the median nerve is undamaged.
Which carpal tunnel option should I choose?
If we look at the research, we’ll see a few important conclusions. First, according to medical research, the endoscopic release ensures faster recovery than the open one. So if you want to go back to your daily activities fast, then maybe the endoscopic surgery will be a better option.
Second, according to research, patients who have the endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery have a better grip strength compared to the patients who get open surgery. At the end of the day, however, this difference is no noticeable after a couple of months.
There are some cons to consider as well. While the endoscopic surgery appears to be preferable in terms of fast recovery, some research suggests that there’s actually a higher chance of nerve damage compared to the open carpal tunnel release.
Furthermore, open surgery has been developed more and more in recent years to ensure that it’s safer and more effective than before. The technique to open carpal tunnel release has changed and more and more surgeons can perform it with smaller incisions which makes it yield safer results.
What’s carpal tunnel release surgery like?
During the surgery, you’ll get local anesthesia and you won’t feel anything. The surgery takes around 20 minutes in which the surgeon will cut either at the palm or the wrist and will cut the carpal ligament. This will relieve the pressure on the nerve. After that, the surgeon will stitch the cut and apply a bandage.
What happens after a carpal tunnel surgery?
Carpal tunnel release surgery is an outpatient procedure. This means you won’t have to stay at the hospital for a long time. Patients usually go home right after or whenever they feel ready. Usually, patients wait for a couple of hours before they get their feeling in their hands back. Your surgeon will give you the advice restrictions after carpal tunnel surgery you have to follow in the next couple of weeks. you have to follow in the weeks after the surgery. This advice includes being careful with your hands and avoiding activities that may result in injury to your hands.
Your doctor may also prescribe some mild pain relievers in case you get any pain. After the surgery, you’ll likely have to wear a bandage to support your wrist and reduce any swelling.
What’s recovery from carpal tunnel release surgery like?
In the first days following the surgery, you might feel some swelling or soreness. At this point, it’s important to keep your hand up as much as you can. You can also move your fingers lightly. This will help with faster recovery.
Around a week or two weeks after the surgery, you can remove the bandage. You can try to do a wider variety of activities using your hands but you still need to be careful with them. In case you get any pain, you should stop and try another time.
After the initial two weeks, your surgeon will remove the stitches and you’ll be able to use your hand more freely. You will see a scar where your stitches were, and that completely normal.
Patients usually return to work in around 10 to 12 days after the surgery if they don’t do any intensive activities at work. Patients will also have a slightly weaker grip but it will resolve if you try to gradually add more activities and movements.
Are there any risks from carpal tunnel surgery?
Just like any other surgery, carpal tunnel release has some risks as well. Carpal tunnel surgery is a safe procedure but there still something that might go wrong. The carpal tunnel surgery complications that might happen are associated with surgeries in general – such as bleeding and infection. Another thing that might happen is an injury to the median nerve or to the nearby blood vessels.
How can I prepare for carpal tunnel release surgery?
The most important thing you can do before the surgery is to talk to your doctor and tell them all of your current medications and supplements. That’s very important because some medications can cause blood thinning which will cause complications during surgery and after. Those medications include ibuprofen, aspirin, and others. Supplements like Vitamin E should also be avoided due to that reason.
Smoking should be avoided too (or completely stopped) because it can slow down the healing process. Furthermore, you have to not eat or drink anything for 6-12 hours before the surgery.
Can I have additional surgery while getting carpal tunnel release?
Sometimes patients have more than one condition at once and they are interested in treating them together. Carpal tunnel syndrome and trigger finger can sometimes appear together, for example. Trigger finger is a condition in which one of your fingers sticks in a bent position. Trigger fingers can be treated with various different methods including steroid injections or surgery (or in some cases, a plain rest can help a lot). So, you should ask your doctor if getting a carpal tunnel and trigger finger surgery at the same time is an option for you.
How much does carpal tunnel surgery cost?
The final cost for carpal tunnel surgery might vary depending on several factors including the doctor’s fee, the medical facility’s fee, anesthetics, or medications you might get prescribed. The cost also depends on whether you have medical insurance or not. That being said, the cost might vary from 1,200 to 12,000.
Are there some hand exercises to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?
Experts say that if you exercise regularly you’ll likely maintain your wrist health. There are some exercises that are particularly good if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Those include stretching and shaking your hands. Those exercises are simple but effective in relieving stiff wrists.
Should I go for physiotherapy after carpal tunnel surgery?
Your surgeon will tell you if you need to go for physical therapy after carpal tunnel release surgery. Most patients go for physical therapy so they can ensure that they are recovering properly and incorporating the right kind of activities. Some patients decide to for physical therapy if they still feel pain months after the surgery.
Painful wrists should not be neglected. While carpal tunnel syndrome can sometimes be resolved with rest or exercise, sometimes surgery is necessary. Getting carpal tunnel treated early on will ensure that you don’t get any permanent nerve damage. The surgery itself is one of the most performed orthopedic surgeries and is a safe way to relieve the pain in the wrist. As a potential patient, it’s important that you know all the details about carpal tunnel surgery and its pros and cons. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor and find a suitable treatment plan for you. We hope that this article was helpful!