Each year, millions of Americans suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, which can feel like a persistent pain or numbness in the hand. It is one of the most common nerve disorders and can often be treated easily, getting you back to doing what you love.
The physicians at Arthritis & Orthopedic Medical Clinic in San Jose, Los Gatos are highly trained to treat carpal tunnel syndrome through various therapies or, when necessary, minimally invasive surgery.
If you’re suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, please do not hesitate to call our office. Your treatment plan will be a result of a partnership between yourself and your physician at Arthritis & Orthopedic Medical Clinic. We focus on shared decision making by educating each patient about their diagnosis, treatment options, and expected recovery time.
- What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
- What are the symptoms?
- How is it diagnosed?
- How does it occur?
- How can I prevent it?
- Is surgery required to treat it?
- What are its nonsurgical treatment options?
- How is the surgery performed?
- What should I expect for recovery from surgery?
- When can I return to work after surgery?
- Will my carpal tunnel syndrome return after surgery?
Common Questions about Carpal Tunnel
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when there is a compressed nerve in the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is the narrow narrow passageway on the palm side of the wrist, consisting of bones, ligaments, and nerves which make the fingers move. When the median nerve—a nerve that runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand—is compressed or squeezed at the wrist, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
When the median nerve is compressed, causing carpal tunnel syndrome, you will feel numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain in your hand. This will occur at varying degrees depending on the severity of the syndrome. Often, the symptoms are worse at night, and may wake you up from sleep.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be diagnosed with an electromyography, or EMG, which is a diagnostic procedure that assesses the health of muscles and the nerve cells.
How does carpal tunnel syndrome occur?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve as a result of inflammation or swelling of the wrist. Making the same hand movements over and over, especially by bending the wrist down to type, is a very common cause—the Arthritis & Orthopedic Medical Clinic doctors often see Silicon Valley workers with carpal tunnel syndrome from typing on computers for many hours per day. Some patients will develop carpal tunnel syndrome from an illness such as hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes. Additionally, pregnant women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
How can I prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?
To prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, the doctors at Arthritis & Orthopedic Medical Clinic recommend exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, refraining from smoking, maintaining good posture, and keeping the muscles of the arm, hand, and fingers strong. Avoid activities that will cause you to bend your wrist for an extended period of time, and if you are doing repetitive motions with your hand or wrist, try to switch hands or change positions often. Don’t forget to take breaks to reduce the amount of stress on the wrist.
Is surgery required to treat carpal tunnel syndrome?
If you’re experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor at Arthritis & Orthopedic Medical Clinic will first explore nonsurgical treatment options. If symptoms persist, if you are showing signs of nerve damage, or if you are experiencing particularly severe symptoms, then surgical treatment for your carpal tunnel syndrome may be necessary.
Severe symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include a complete loss of feeling, loss of coordination, or reduced strength in the fingers or hand which interfere with your everyday activities. However, your doctor will work in partnership with you to determine the level of severity of your carpal tunnel syndrome and whether or not endoscopic surgery is the best option.
What are nonsurgical treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome?
Nonsurgical treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome may include a brace, occupational therapy, or in some cases, medication or corticosteroid injections. Especially if the carpal tunnel syndrome is caught early, these nonsurgical options in addition to lifestyle changes can be very effective. Carpal tunnel syndrome in women during pregnancy will often go away after childbirth.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome surgery performed?
The physicians at Arthritis & Orthopedic Medical Clinic use an endoscopic technique for surgical treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. An endoscope is a very thin tube with a small camera attached. This camera is guided through a small incision—generally less than an inch— in crease of the wrist to allow your physician to see the affected area without making a large opening.
The endoscope is used to make a cut in the transverse carpal ligament. This releases the pressure on the median nerve which causes carpal tunnel syndrome. Most of the time, the incision is closed with glue—no stitches to remove on the skin. The patient is able to go home that same day of carpal tunnel surgery.
What should I expect for recovery from carpal tunnel surgery?
Because Arthritis & Orthopedic Medical Clinic uses an endoscopic technique to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, patients enjoy a shorter recovery time from surgery. A minimal incision is made using an endoscope, so the doctor is able to perform treatment while getting the patient back to full functionality as soon as possible.
While this will vary from patient to patient, recovery time from endoscopic surgery is often just a few days. However, the doctors recommend avoiding heavy use of the hand for a couple of weeks post-surgery.
When can I return to work after carpal tunnel surgery?
A few different factors will determine how soon you may be able to return to your everyday activities. This will depend on the type of work you do and whether or not the surgery was performed on your dominant hand. If you’re getting endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery, your doctor at Arthritis & Orthopedic Medical Clinic will work with you to determine how much off time you post expect post-surgery.
Will my carpal tunnel syndrome return after surgery?
In about 95% of patients, carpal tunnel syndrome will not recur post-surgery. If you’re preparing for endoscopic surgery, your doctor will communicate with you every step of the way to ensure the surgery and recovery go as smoothly as possible, minimizing the chance of a recurrence.