Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a progressive and painful condition caused by increased pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand. The carpal tunnel, which is at the base of the hand, is defined as a passageway of ligaments and bones that house the median nerve and tendons. When the tendons thicken and become irritated, swelling causes the median nerve to become compressed, resulting in pain and discomfort.
The first step should always be to consult with and orthopedic hand doctor so he or she can perform tests and evaluate the severity of the condition. After testing, doctors usually prescribe at least two weeks of rest for the affected wrist and hand.
If nonsurgical treatments fail to alleviate pain over a period of six months or more, patients should consider surgery.
In a procedure called Carpal Tunnel Release, the doctor makes a small incision (about 1 inch in length) in the wrist and releases the transverse carpal ligament, which in turn makes the carpal tunnel larger and takes the pressure off of the median nerve. Another option is Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery, during which the surgeon makes a smaller incision in the wrist and then inserts a camera for a close inspection of the tissue. The transverse carpal ligament is cut and the operation, performed under local anesthesia, tends to limit scarring and scar tissue.
Surgery has the potential to alleviate symptoms and pain, but a patient should not expect full recovery until several months have passed. Possible side effects include: Infection, nerve damage, stiffness and pain at the incision site.
Most patients require physical therapy after surgical procedures to restore strength in the wrist. Those with occupational issues might find it necessary to alter what they do at work, or even change jobs completely.