Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when a main nerve in your arm gets compressed or squeezed as it runs through a narrow area in your wrist. This area is called the carpal tunnel.

The tunnel is made up of your wrist bones and a strong ligament called the transverse carpal ligament that stretches across the underside of your wrist. The nerves and tendons that help you move your hand go through the carpal tunnel.

One of the main nerves in your upper body is your median nerve. It travels from your neck, down your arm, and to your hand.

There, it leads across your palm into your thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of your ring finger. It is responsible for both movement and feeling in those areas.

If the median nerve is compressed for a long time or gets irritated, it can stop working normally. This is called carpal tunnel syndrome.

Treatment

Treatment for your carpal tunnel syndrome depends on how bad your symptoms are. A wrist splint may be all you need to keep pressure off your median nerve.

Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories can help relieve pain and inflammation.
Injections of cortisone can also help reduce inflammation and swelling.
You may also need to change how you use your wrist and hands. Special devices to use with your computer, physical therapy, and specific exercises may help. Or you may need to treat a separate health condition that's causing your carpal tunnel syndrome.

If your symptoms don't get better or go away, your health care provider may recommend surgery. You can have either open or endoscopic surgery.

During open surgery, the surgeon makes a cut in your palm near the wrist.

There, he or she makes a cut in the transverse carpal ligament that runs over the top of the carpal tunnel. This makes the tunnel larger and releases the pressure on your nerve.

After surgery the skin is stitched up and covered with a bandage.
During endoscopic surgery, the surgeon makes one small cut in your wrist area and moves a small tool called an endoscope to the carpal tunnel.

The endoscope is a thin tube containing a light and a tiny camera. The camera sends video back to a computer screen.

The surgeon uses the video to move the endoscope into the tunnel and cuts the transverse carpal ligament.

In both cases, the ligament grows back together but allows more room for the nerve and tendons.

Recovery can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year, depending on how severe your symptoms are and how damaged your nerve is. Depending on your situation, you may recover faster with endoscopic surgery.

Things to Remember

Pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome.
Treatment for your carpal tunnel syndrome depends on how bad your symptoms are.
During surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, a ligament is cut to make more room inside the carpal tunnel for your tendons and median nerve.

What We Have Learned

Pressure on the carpal tunnel nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome. True or false? The answer is false. Pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome.

During surgery, a cut is made in your medial ligament. True or false? The answer is false. The surgeon will cut the transverse carpal ligament that runs over the top of the carpal tunnel.