Reduce Wrist Pain, Restore Dexterity

Chronic wrist pain, nerve pain, numbness, and weakness are all signs of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a common condition that can limit the use of the hand and require medical attention. While there are many non-surgical options, severe cases can benefit from carpal tunnel release surgery. This procedure can reduce pain and help restore dexterity to the hand. Carpal tunnel release surgery can be performed traditionally by making a larger open cut or endoscopically as an outpatient procedure. Understanding the differences can help carpal tunnel patients make the right decision.


CTS symptoms

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition where a nerve in the hand is irritated, leading to unpleasant symptoms. At the base of the wrist lies the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway of bones, ligaments, and nerves. The median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel and branches to the palm and fingers, helping with movement and sensation. If the carpal tunnel is irritated, inflamed, or damaged, the space narrows, pressing on the median nerve. Common symptoms of CTS include pain, numbness, weakness, and a burning sensation, especially at night. There are several causes of CTS, including repetitive movements, like assembly line work, medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), hormones, genetics, and injuries.

Release the wrist

Chronic, severe CTS that does not respond to conservative treatment may require carpal tunnel release surgery. The procedure is typically performed by an orthopedic surgeon. An open approach begins with the surgeon making an incision along the wrist to access the carpal tunnel. Excess tissue, ligaments, or other debris are removed to make space for the median nerve. The surgeon will then close the incision. After surgery, the patient will undergo a brief recovery period, including attending physical therapy (PT) appointments. While open surgery is a common practice, outpatient carpal tunnel surgery is a preferred option due to the many benefits afforded.

Small incisions, big results

Carpal tunnel release surgery can be performed in an outpatient setting. The surgeon only needs 1-2 incisions the size of buttonholes to address the issue. Into the first incision goes an endoscope. This device has a camera and light at the end that transmits images of the wrist to the surgeon. The surgeon can then use tools to release the median nerve. Once the procedure is complete, the surgeon removes the tools and closes the incisions. The process takes less than 2 hours, and the patient can leave the surgical center or hospital the same day.

Minimally invasive surgery benefits

Outpatient procedures, also called minimally invasive surgery (MIS), have several benefits. Patients can schedule surgery at a convenient time and can leave the hospital the same day. The outpatient method uses tiny incisions with more minor scars, less bleeding, and reduced post-operative pain. Outpatient carpal tunnel surgery also speeds up healing and recovery as there is less damage to tissue and nearby nerves. Patients report a high success rate and up to 90% satisfaction.

Getting back your dexterity

Does surgery help restore a patient’s dexterity? The goal of carpal tunnel release is to relieve pain and improve the function of the wrist and hand. Ideally, the patient will gain improved flexibility and grip strength with minimal pain, ensuring a safe resumption of work and other physical activity. Most patients experience a return of some muscle strength and agility after surgery. However, the outcome depends on a solid PT regimen focusing on strengthening the hand. Choosing the right exercise and a consistent dedication to the program significantly improves outcomes. In other words, surgery must work hand in hand with therapy to restore dexterity.

A long-term solution to carpal tunnel

The pain and discomfort of CTS can be unbearable. Some relief can be achieved with pain management, but often at the expense of dexterity. Outpatient surgery clears the runway for the median nerve, relieving pain, numbness, and muscle weakness. After PT, patients should notice a significant improvement in function and dexterity. Outpatient surgery also provides long-term solutions with minimal damage to the wrist.

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