Carpal Tunnel Release
The carpal tunnel is a narrow, fibrous passage in the wrist that protects the median nerve, which controls movement and sensation in the hand and thumb, index and middle fingers. This area can be easily irritated by a change in tissue position that causes the carpal tunnel to squeeze and compress the nerve. When irritated, the median nerve can cause tingling and numbness in the fingers, a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Nerves are most often irritated when pressure is applied from surrounding structures. This pressure is known as impingement or nerve entrapment and can cause numbness, tingling, pain and weakness throughout the affected area.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that most often affects people whose jobs require repetitive use of their hands, and is also more common in women. This condition spreads gradually and usually begins as an ache in the wrist that may extend down to the forearm or up to the hand. As CPS develops, you may also experience tingling or numbness in the fingers or pain radiating through the entire arm. Some people may also experience weakness in the hand and arm, and may have difficulty grasping small objects. These symptoms are usually most severe when first waking up or when using your hands.
Although most people associate carpal tunnel syndrome with pain and tingling in the fingers, it is important to note that this condition does not affect the pinky finger. If you are experiencing symptoms in this finger, you may be suffering from another condition.
Despite common belief, carpal tunnel is not necessarily caused by overuse, but may be a result of a genetic predisposition. Some people naturally have a smaller carpal tunnel that is susceptible to irritation. Other cases may have no direct cause, or may occur as a result of arthritis, diabetes, obesity, menopause, injury or overuse. Any pressure placed on the median nerve can trigger symptoms, as this nerve is mixed and contains both a sensory function and the ability to provide nerve signals.
Patients who suffer from symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome should seek medical attention in order to have their condition properly diagnosed. Carpal tunnel is usually diagnosed by obtaining a complete medical history and physical examination. It is important to accurately describe your symptoms to your doctor. Your doctor may perform diagnostic tests such as an electromyogram or nerve conduction study in order to measure nerve impulses that can diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome or other similar conditions.
Carpal tunnel release can be performed endoscopically or through an open procedure. Both types offer different advantages to the doctor and patient, and should be considered after a thorough evaluation of the patient's individual condition. Open carpal tunnel release involves a two inch incision in the middle of the palm and gives the surgeon a better view of the treated area with less risk of accidentally damaging nerve tissue. Endoscopic carpal tunnel release involves two tiny incisions and offers patients less post-operative pain and the ability to return to work more quickly.
Patients can return home the same day, but may need prescription pain medication at first to manage the pain from the procedure. The hand may be kept in a splint for the first few weeks after surgery in order to protect the wrist while it heals. Although patients may continue to experience carpal tunnel symptoms after this procedure, most report that symptoms are significantly reduced after carpal tunnel release.