Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common orthopedic condition that causes pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, and limited mobility in the hand and wrist. Repetitive movements that compress the median nerve in the wrist generally lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Other causes include a wrist fracture and rheumatoid arthritis, both of which produce inflammation and swelling within the tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the wrist.
There are a number of factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. As we mentioned previously, anatomic factors such as a wrist fracture or dislocation, and chronic inflammatory illnesses like diabetes and arthritis, can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Other risks include pregnancy, menopause, thyroids disorders, obesity, kidney failure, fluid retention, and workplace factors.
Conservative therapies are generally the first line of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. People who experience mild to moderate pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness may experience relief from splinting their wrist and taking over-the-counter painkillers. As the condition progresses, though, an orthopedic physician may recommend a corticosteroid injection to reduce inflammation and pain in the hand and wrist.
Most orthopedic physicians have a rule-of-thumb that no more than 2 injections can be administered within a 2-3 months span. Although these injections are highly effective, they can leak deposits on surrounding healthy tissue and bone. This can cause major problems down the line, so if you’re not experiencing adequate pain relief from injection therapy, surgery may be your best option.
There are two different surgical techniques for carpal tunnel syndrome: endoscopic and open. More often than not, an orthopedic surgeon will perform endoscopic surgery because it is minimally invasive, ensures minimal blood loss and down time, and it may result in less pain and better surgical outcomes.
Many patients who undergo carpal tunnel release surgery experience tremendous results and complete relief of symptoms. Still, there is a possibility patients will not experience complete symptom relief after the procedure. Much of this depends on the patients’ recovery. Other times, patients witness success from their surgery, but their carpal tunnel syndrome recurs. This is rare, and usually not something to worry about. However, it is still possible.
Therefore, it is imperative patients follow all of their physician’s postoperative care instructions and try to limit motions and activities that may have caused the condition in the first place.
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The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.