Your wrist contains many bones and tendons. Constant use or accidents at work can damage these tendons, leading to numbness, swelling, or even severe wrist pain. This reduction in your mobility can drastically affect your life, so do not hesitate to get help.
Workers Comp Doctor helps people find a physician for the job. As New York’s top workers’ comp doctor collective, our experts can determine the severity of your injury. We have the information you need about severe carpal tunnel and know signs indicating you may need corrective surgery.
Facts You Need To Know About Carpal Tunnel
Your wrists have carpal tunnels: narrow passages surrounded by bones and ligaments in the palm side of your arm. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when a force compresses the median nerve within the tunnel. Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include mobility-affecting issues, such as:
- Tingling sensations
- Arm or hand weakness
- Stabbing pain
The bones shifting in your wrist, pre-existing health issues, or repetitive hand motions can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Many workers do repetitive tasks that rely on their hands and wrists. If this medical condition goes untreated for too long, a person can sustain permanent nerve and muscle damage.
Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel
Doctors use a variety of tests and scans to determine the severity and presence of carpal tunnel syndrome. These procedures may include the following:
Your doctor will ask about the kind of symptoms experienced and their duration. They may ask how often the symptoms occur and at what time they appear the most.
Your doctor will test the strength and feeling in the hand and fingers by bending the wrist, tapping on nerves, or pressing on the hot spots for symptomatic activity.
To help rule out other causes or conditions, your doctor may recommend an X-ray. Arthritis or fractures can lead to similar symptoms to carpal tunnel, and they will evaluate them accordingly. The X-ray does not diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome itself.
Ultrasounds can provide a live view of the condition within your carpal tunnel. This process gives your doctor a good view of the bones and nerves and can help them identify a compressed median nerve.
Electromyography tests the strength of the electrical charges that muscles produce upon constriction and relaxation. Your doctor may perform a nerve conduction study by inserting a thin needle electrode into specific muscles for measurement and using two electrodes to send a small shock through the median nerve. If the electrical impulses slow through the carpal tunnel, that may indicate the syndrome.
Usual Treatment Options Before Trying Surgery
Based on the physician’s findings, they can determine the presence of carpal tunnel syndrome. They may not find the condition is severe yet and will try an alternative, non-surgical treatment. Wrist splinting, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and corticosteroid injections (steroidal pain-relieving medication) are common treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Wrist splinting at night can prevent daytime symptoms. While NSAIDs can lessen the symptoms, there is no current proof it alleviates the syndrome.
Corticosteroids reduce swelling and inflammation, reducing the pressure on the median nerve. Physicians generally prefer injections to oral medications since injections have a more potent effect on the muscles and nerves.
If none of these treatments prove effective or the symptoms worsen, your doctor may suggest severe carpal tunnel surgery. They may also recommend surgery if a long time passes between the issues starting and a medical consultation.
The Two Types of Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Two particular procedures can alleviate the cause and symptoms of severe carpal tunnel syndrome. In both surgeries, the surgeon cuts the flexor retinaculum, a fibrous band inside the wrist. With the band cut, the pressure on the median nerve should reduce.
- Open carpal tunnel release surgery: The surgeon makes a small cut on the inside of the wrist. From that cut, they then slide through, sever the flexor retinaculum, and finish the procedure by closing the skin.
- Endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery: The surgeon makes incisions on the palm and wrist, inserting a small camera, endoscope, into one cut. They watch through the camera and sever the ligament through the other cut. Some endoscopic procedures only use one incision for both monitoring and severing.
Medical monitoring has proven both procedures effective in alleviating severe carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Both usually use a local anesthetic, but patients can also choose to receive a general anesthetic during these outpatient procedures.
The Benefits of Surgical Carpal Tunnel Treatment
The flexor retinaculum grows back over time, as do the local nerves. Post-surgery recovery may take four to five weeks, but the ligament often reforms with more space for the median. Those receiving endoscopic surgeries tend to recover faster than those with open surgery.
75 to 90% of patients report a complete recovery after surgery. They do not have any lasting numbness, strength loss, or pain, and symptoms improve quickly. The people who act fast and receive treatment earlier often report better results.
The Risks of Surgical Carpal Tunnel Treatment
Sometimes, the patient has too much damage to their median nerve for the surgery to prove effective. Even after surgery, they may notice symptoms. Additional risks of the procedure include human and healing errors, such as:
- Wound infections, damaging the wrist and body
- Injured nerves or blood vessels
- Incomplete ligament severing, causing further pain
- Scar formation, leading to additional pressure on the median
Discuss Your Options with New York’s Top Workers’ Compensation Doctor
If you start getting wrist pain or numbness while at work, you might have a work-related injury. These injuries should not hinder your life, and treatment options are available.
Don’t hesitate to call Workers Comp Doctor at 888-590-4030 to schedule an appointment with a carpal tunnel syndrome doctor near you. Or, you can find out how an orthopedist can help you after a work-related injury. All physicians listed in our directory accept workers’ compensation insurance. Same-day appointments may be available.