What is Carpel Tunnel and Why Do I Need Surgery?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a debilitating condition characterized by pain and numbness in the hand and fingers. While there are many treatments for CTS, surgery is the only method that targets the cause of the condition rather than relieving the symptoms. Talking to an orthopaedic surgeon can help you determine what course of action is best for your specific condition.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by prolonged or habitual compression of a nerve that enters the hand through the carpal tunnel – an arch of bones and ligaments in the wrist. Called the median nerve, it provides sensation to the thumb, forefinger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger.It also helps control some movement of the hand, particularly the thumb.Compression of the median nerve when the hand is flexed leads to pain and numbness in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. The numbness is so intense it wakes one from sleep. Left untreated over long periods, it can lead to muscle atrophy and permanent numbness.

The causes to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are wide ranging, and little understood. While it is associated with any habit that puts pressure on the median nerve (i.e., sleeping with flexed wrists), many of the cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are idiopathic (unknown). There has been much speculation that carpal tunnel can arise from highly repetitive manual tasks and wrist postures associated with work and sports, although current literature has not proven a causal relationship between these actions and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Treatments to CTS range from wrist splints that prevent the wrist from flexing to injections of Corticosteroids that reduce swelling inside the carpal tunnel. However, the only treatment for CTS that has been proven to cure the cause of CTS (rather than just relieving the symptoms) is a simple hand surgery that divides the transverse carpal ligament in two, thereby reducing pressure on the median nerve. Orthopaedic surgeons and hand surgeons will perform CTS surgery. The procedure is done under local anesthesia, and does not require an overnight hospital stay. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, recurrence of CTS following surgery is rare, and a majority of patients recover fully.

The physicians at Specialty Orthopedic Surgery are dedicated to the compassionate care of our patient’s musculoskeletal concerns, big and small.  Let us know how we can help keep you moving.

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