Common Hand Conditions

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If you repeatedly experience numbness, weakness or a tingling feeling in your wrists or fingers, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome. Because its symptoms are often mistaken for other common joint conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome can often go undiagnosed, though four to ten million Americans are affected by it. In most cases, symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medication, but it’s important to consult your doctor early.

Contact us online today to learn more about your carpal tunnel treatment options. The Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery of Central Texas helps men and women from Austin, Round Rock and throughout Texas restore hand and wrist functionality with reconstructive surgery.

Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The major nerve and hand tendons travel from the wrist to the hand through a narrow passage called the carpal tunnel. When these nerves are compressed, usually by inflammation in the tendons, they cause numbness, tingling and pain throughout the hand and wrist. These symptoms sometimes even radiate up the arm. Over time, this can cause problems with hand function and muscle weakness. People with carpal tunnel syndrome may notice problems making a fist or holding small objects.

Typically, carpal tunnel syndrome only affects one hand, but sometimes it may impact both. The symptoms are noticed mostly in the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Numbness and tingling in the ring and pinky fingers may indicate cubital tunnel syndrome instead. Symptoms are often worse first thing in the morning. They may appear only during certain physical activities that require repetitive or extended wrist movement. Early symptoms may only be periodic, so many people go undiagnosed until they notice symptoms more regularly and often. If left untreated, permanent nerve and muscle damage can occur.

The causes of carpal tunnel syndrome are unknown. Symptoms may appear in people who have certain medical conditions. Those who have existing hand or wrist injuries or who engage in repetitive work activities are also at risk. Tendonitis, arthritis and nerve diseases may also cause symptoms that mimic those of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Surgical Carpal Tunnel Treatment

The initial treatments for carpal tunnel symptoms are typically over-the-counter. These may include anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and inflammation. Sometimes hand therapy to stretch and strengthen the hand and wrist is helpful. A wrist brace worn either at night or during the day can also provide some relief. When more conservative treatments don’t help enough, surgery may be recommended.

Surgery for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most commonly performed procedures in the United States. There are two approaches to carpal tunnel surgery: open release surgery and endoscopic surgery. Open release surgery is the more common of the two. During open release surgery, the carpal tunnel ligament is cut to enlarge the tunnel. This relieves nerve pressure.

An endoscopic surgical approach guides a thin, tube-like camera through a tiny incision either in the wrist or palm. This lets the doctor see the wrist structures without fully opening the area. Surgery is performed with the guidance of the camera using small instruments. Endoscopic surgery is less invasive, so healing time is often faster and post-operative discomfort is minimized.

Recovery and Results

Recovery following surgical carpal tunnel treatment occurs gradually. At first, you will need to keep your wrist immobile and bandaged. Over time, you can work up to a greater activity level. Incorporating exercises and hand therapy help the wrist heal properly. Some people notice an improvement in their symptoms very soon after surgery, and the majority of people experience nearly full relief of symptoms after recovery. It’s very unusual for symptoms to return after surgery.

Contact us online today to learn more about your carpal tunnel treatment options. The Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery of Central Texas helps men and women from Austin, Round Rock and throughout Texas restore hand and wrist functionality with reconstructive surgery.