Up to 10 million Americans have carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s a painful nerve condition that starts in the wrist and affects the hand, thumb, and other fingers.
Your carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in your wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when tissues in that passageway swell up and put pressure on the median nerve.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome often start mildly but get worse over time. Eventually, the condition can significantly limit hand function — but when is the right time to consider hand surgery?
As an elite hand surgeon, Walter D. Gracia, MD, PA, specializes in endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery. Read on to learn when it might be time to consider surgery for your carpal tunnel pain.
Signs it’s time to consider carpal tunnel surgery
Carpal tunnel syndrome is widespread. It varies in severity, and not everyone who has it needs surgery. However, Dr. Gracia may recommend carpal tunnel release if:
Your symptoms are severe
Carpal tunnel syndrome starts gradually. At first, mild symptoms may come and go. But as the condition progresses, symptoms get more severe. Eventually, you might notice that symptoms occur more frequently and last longer.
The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are:
- Pain in the thumb, index, middle, or ring fingers
- Numbness, tingling, or burning in thumb or fingers
- Sensation similar to electric shock in thumb or fingers
- Pain or tingling that radiates up the arm
- Weakness in the hand
Severe symptoms may contribute to clumsiness or dropping things because you lose awareness of where your hand is in your surroundings. When symptoms are more intense, frequent, and longer-lasting, it might be time to consider surgery.
Conservative treatment isn’t working
If you’re diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, Dr. Gracia typically starts by recommending a combination of conservative treatments.
These non-surgical options for carpal tunnel syndrome typically include:
- Activity modification
- Bracing or splinting
- Nerve gliding exercises
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs)
- Steroid injections
Non-surgical treatments can be very effective, especially when you start treatment when the condition is still in the early stages. However, more advanced carpal tunnel syndrome may not respond to conservative care. If you’ve tried these options and still have severe symptoms, carpal tunnel surgery may be recommended.
What to expect with surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome
When severe symptoms interfere with your quality of life and non-surgical treatments aren’t effective enough, Dr. Gracia may suggest carpal tunnel release surgery. Many people live with hand and wrist pain for far too long, and they’re surprised to learn just how effective surgery can be to relieve their symptoms.
Dr. Gracia uses endoscopic surgery for carpal tunnel release. He performs most procedures on an outpatient basis, which means you can go home the same day — no hospital stay required.
Before surgery, our team administers general anesthesia or a combination of local anesthesia and IV sedative to keep you comfortable. Once your wrist and hand are numb, Dr. Gracia inserts a camera through a small incision to see inside your wrist.
He guides specialized tools through the incision to the ligaments in your wrist, then cuts the transverse carpal ligament to create more space for your median nerve. Our team closes the incision, moves you to recovery, and then you’re free to go home.
Your skin heals within a few weeks, and full recovery may take several months. During recovery, Dr. Gracia may recommend physical therapy or strengthening exercises to promote healing.
Are you ready to learn more about carpal tunnel release surgery? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Gracia online or call our office at 817-336-9450 today.