3 Steps to Help Carpal Tunnel: Nonsurgery, Surgery & Therapy Options

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is one of the most common hand and wrist ailments disrupting peoples’ daily work and play activities. And carpal tunnel release surgery is the most frequent surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. If you suffer from CTS, you need a plan of relief that marries your symptoms, potential causes, work and lifestyle factors, treatment choices, and therapy options. Not all CTS is the same. The sooner you make a personalized plan, the better your chances of preventing long-term damage and the sooner you’ll return to your active, pain-free life.

What are Potential Causes of CTS?

woman doing finger and wrist stretch exercise therapy on white background

The causes of carpal tunnel syndrome can be anything that irritates the median nerve, such as bone fractures, dislocations, joint or bone disease, hormonal changes, and arthritis. However, pain and limited motion from CTS is most commonly caused by frequent and repetitive motions, and keeping the hands and wrists in certain positions for prolonged periods. Sometimes, family history can play a role, as well. CTS sufferers should meet with their providers for an evaluation to understand the causes of their pain, weigh the treatment options, and develop a plan of relief.

3-Step Action Plan to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

After a thorough orthopedic evaluation, a specialist may recommend the following measures for relieving your pain and getting you back to an active life:

Step 1: Nonsurgical procedures

Since the source of the pain or inflammation is the median nerve, the goal of nonsurgical treatments is to relieve any pressure on the nerve. There are several conservative, nonsurgical methods of treatment for carpal tunnel including:

  • Wrist splinting
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT)
  • Workplace adjustments

These noninvasive interventions can take weeks to months. Patients who follow these protocols for the full length of time—and treatment frequency—recommended by their health-care providers often achieve better outcomes. For many individuals, Step 1 is the only step they need to feel relief from CTS.

Step 2: Carpal tunnel release surgery

If nonsurgical interventions have not relieved the pain, a medical professional may recommend carpal tunnel release surgery. Or, if a doctor sees any of the following issues, they may recommend surgery, as well:

  • An electromyography diagnostic test (measuring how the muscles and nerves work) of the median nerve determines that you have carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Hands or wrist muscles are weak and getting smaller due to the severe pinching of the nerve
  • Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome have lasted six months or longer with no relief

Carpal tunnel release surgery is one of the most often-recommended surgeries for hand and wrist complaints. The goal is to relieve pressure on the median nerve by cutting the ligament that forms the roof of the tunnel (transverse carpal ligament). Release of this ligament decreases pressure on the nerve, allowing for appropriate blood flow and function of the nerve. Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome has a very high success rate of over 90%.

Step 3. Post-surgery recovery and rehab: The Light at the end of tunnel

After carpal tunnel release surgery, it’s important to receive post-surgery therapeutic treatment. Recovery times and outcomes differ for each individual. A custom recovery plan prepared with your provider can help improve your prognosis and healing period. Occupational therapists may help you recover faster by teaching you exercises that improve strength and agility, reduce pain and discomfort, and increase muscle function in daily activities. A physical or occupational therapist may recommend some of the following exercises and actions to aid in the recovery process:

  • Mild hand, finger, wrist, and forearm exercises
  • Flexing and stretching
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Joint stabilization
  • Improving range of motion

A post-surgery therapist can also teach you healthy techniques to avoid the recurrence of CTS symptoms, such as good posture, mobility habits, exercise routines, and ergonomic workplace modifications.

A Plan of relief

If you are experiencing pain or limited activity from carpal tunnel syndrome, now’s the time to develop a treatment and recovery plan. Our board-certified and fellowship-trained physicians, specializing in wrists and hand conditions, provide high-quality, state-of-the-art nonsurgical and surgical treatments and therapies for patients throughout the state of Virginia. The orthopedic experts at Town Center Orthopaedics evaluate each unique case with a commitment to providing each patient with highly personalized hand and wrist care, precision treatment plans, and optimal pain relief. Our patient-centered approach means that you will be involved in planning every step of the treatment process required to achieve the best possible outcome for your carpal tunnel issues. To consult with a specialist, call (571) 250-5660 or request an appointment today.

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