Feeling the pressure?
Starting from the forearm, through the wrist, to the center of the palm is the carpal tunnel. Running through the carpal tunnel are 9 flexor tendons and the median nerve. The median nerve branches out to the thumb, index, middle finger and part of the ring finger. This nerve provides feeling to these fingers. Sometimes, the carpal tunnel becomes inflamed and presses on the median nerve. This is CTS and can cause mild to severe pain and numbness. Some persons will even experience muscle weakness and poor grip strength.
Are you at risk for CTS?
CTS typically happens to persons in the workplace who place repetitive stress on the hands and wrists. Candidates for CTS include construction workers, people using keyboards and assembly work. The pain is often worse at night, after a long day’s work. Pregnant women, persons with obesity, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis also develop CTS. Doctors treat CTS with a mix of ergonomic education, physical therapy, splinting, and medication. However, there are thousands of people who need minimally invasive carpal tunnel surgery to get real relief.
How carpal tunnel surgery can help
Minimally invasive carpal tunnel surgery aims to provide breathing room for the median nerve. In the past, hand surgeons performed open surgery. Now using an endoscope, surgeons can perform minimally invasive procedures. An endoscope has a high powered camera to give surgeons full view of the carpal tunnel. Using small incisions, the surgeon inserts the endoscope and micro tools into the hand. Then the carpal ligament gets cut to release the pressure on the median nerve. Finally, the tools are removed and the incisions stitched up. The gap will fill with scar tissue during the healing process.
Having surgery: are you a candidate?
Everyone with carpal tunnel doesn’t need surgery. Pregnant women, for instance, often get relief after childbirth. Most cases are mild and are fixed with simple habit changes. But if the patient has had carpal tunnel for a long time, then surgery may be the best solution. At this point, the candidate may be losing grip strength. To avoid any longterm damage, persons with a long history of CTS should have surgery as soon as possible.
Did you pass the test?
Doctors will know a patient surgery is best if the patient fails a nerve conduction test. To complete the test, the doctor attaches electrodes to the palm. Then an electrical current gets passed through the median nerve. If the electrical impulses do not respond well, the median nerve could be severely impacted. Many doctors don’t perform nerve tests, as physical tests can confirm CTS. However, based on the results, doctors may go straight to surgery instead of conventional treatment.
When you’ve tried it all
There are several non-surgical treatments for CTS. Doctors can treat most cases with icepacks, medication and physical therapy. Even corticosteroid injections can bring longterm relief. However, if none of these methods work, consider minimally invasive surgery. Doctors will know when to suggest carpal release based on the timeframe of unsuccessful treatment.
Time to release those aching nerves
Carpal tunnel can put a damper on work and personal life. The good news is that surgery has an over 90% success rate, with few persons need corrective surgery. So when’s the best time to have surgery? When the damage is severe and the usual treatments fail. Speak with a doctor to start a plan to bring much-needed relief today.