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Is It Time to Have Surgery for Your Carpal Tunnel?

By: Dr. Christopher Khorsandi


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a progressive condition that involves the hand and arm. The condition affects the median nerve, which travels down the neck, down to the finger tips. In the wrist, the nerve, along with nine tendons responsible for movement of the fingers, pass through a narrow passageway known as the carpal tunnel. The width of the carpal tunnel is only about as wide as your thumb, and it is in this very tight spot where problems typically arise. Simply put, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a pinched nerve within the wrist.

Signs and Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Symptoms often start gradually and may be more noticeable at night. Sufferers may feel the need to shake the hands in an attempt to relieve symptoms of tingling and numbness. Aches and pains in the wrist, thumb, index finger, ring finger and lower half of the ring finger are common indicators of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, as the pinky is typically not affected. Major symptoms include:

  • Tingling

  • Numbness

  • Feeling of swelling in fingers with no visible inflammation.

  • Radiating pain from wrist to the fingers or up the arm as far as the elbow or shoulder.

  • Increasing weakness and loss of grip strength.

  • Possible loss of sensation in hand and fingers.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Sometimes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be caused by a congenital issue where the tunnel is just smaller and more constrictive than it should be. This condition may also have many other causes, such as:

  • Fluid retention from pregnancy, menopause, obesity, or diseases such as kidney failure.

  • Inflammation from arthritis.

  • Peripheral nerve damage from diabetes.

  • Smoking and excessive use of alcohol.

  • Trauma

  • Repetitive hand movements, especially when the hand is frequently used below the level of the wrist.

Making the Decision for Hand Surgery to Relieve Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States. Although this type of surgery is common and very effective, other methods of therapy should be tried before having hand surgery to relieve symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If there are underlying medical conditions, these need to be treated. If no improvement is noted after making necessary lifestyle changes, treating underlying medical concerns, and trying less invasive treatment measures such as splinting or anti-inflammatory medications, surgery should be considered to reduce the risk of permanent damage to the meridian nerve.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.