Carpal tunnel release is a surgical procedure used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome , a painful condition caused by the compression of the median nerve in the wrist. The median nerve runs through the carpal tunnel and connects with the thumb and fingers of your hand to provide feeling in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers and motion in the muscles at the base of the thumb in the palm. This compression is a direct result of the tightening of the band of tissue where the palm meets the wrist. Carpal tunnel release surgery severs the band of tissue in order to reduce the excess pressure on the median nerve. This surgery has a high success rate and most patients experience full recovery within a month after the procedure.
One of the most common surgical procedures in the country, carpal tunnel surgery is usually recommended if nonsurgical treatments and exercises bring little or no relief. If the muscles in your hand and wrist are getting smaller as a result of the pinched median nerve, carpal tunnel release surgery will usually be done immediately. The surgeon can perform a electrodiagnositic study, also known as a nerve conduction study (NCS) and an EMG diagnostic test (electromyogram) to detect abnormal nerve and muscle function in order to determine the severity of your condition.
Other Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Before recommending carpal tunnel surgery, your doctor will most likely recommend other carpal tunnel treatments or exercises in order to relieve any swelling, pressure or pain. Treatments can include:
What to Expect after Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery
After surgery, your wrist may be wrapped in a large dressing to protect the area. After surgery your ability to use your hand can be limited because of soreness in the area and weakness and pain with gripping and holding activities. Exercising the fingers is important to prevent finger stiffness. Most doctors encourage patients to increase use of their hand and fingers as the pain subsides and the strength returns.. Your surgeon may prescribe pain medication to control moderate post-surgery pain. Some patients may require hand therapy to help with the recovery of function and strength.
Some patients recover quickly enough to start to use a computer and drive within a day or two after the operation. It can take a few months before you would be able to do heavy lifting, participate in strenuous sports, or even be able to use a manual can opener. Different patients recover at different speeds. Your length of recovery time frequently depends on the severity of your condition prior to surgery.