You use your hands when performing many activities in life. You type with them, you may work with them, and some of your favorite hobbies likely require their use. There can be nothing more disheartening than realizing that you just can't garden, paint, and even worse, perform your job properly, because your hand and wrist are suddenly in pain when you use them. While, thankfully, not a deadly condition, carpal tunnel syndrome can take a toll on you mentally and physically because the inability to use your hand properly affects your life in so many ways. If you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, then you may be having a difficult time deciding if and when you need surgery to relieve it. Read on to learn when surgery becomes the best option and what can happen if you put off getting surgery for too long.
When is it the Right Time for Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
When you were diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor may have started off your treatment by providing you with a special hand splint and instructed you to wear it at night and, if possible, during the day. They may have also prescribed pain relievers for you to take, given you corticosteriod injections in your affected wrist, prescribed diuretics, and even had you visit a physical therapist that had you perform special hand exercises to relieve your symptoms.
After each step in the treatment process, you likely experienced some pain relief that was short-lived and then, either quickly or gradually, had a hand and wrist that were both in pain again. This likely felt very disheartening, because after each new treatment, you likely had great hope that it would be the last treatment you needed that would cure your carpal tunnel syndrome for good.
However, you may not feel quite so disheartened when you find out that these treatments simply don't work for most people with carpal tunnel syndrome. Why did your doctor have you perform all of these steps before advising surgery? The American Academy of Neurology provides treatment guidelines for carpal tunnel syndrome that advise doctors to try conservative (surgery-free) treatments before suggesting that a patient visits a medical orthopedics specialist for carpal tunnel surgery. They advise these approaches because there are a few people who respond to the treatments, although not many. In addition, many health insurance companies will not cover the cost of carpal tunnel surgery until other less costly treatments are tried.
It is important to know why these treatments are recommended before carpal tunnel surgery, because some people who have carpal tunnel syndrome are under the misconception that surgery is considered a "last resort" carpal tunnel treatment because it is dangerous or risky. In reality, it carries very few risks compared to the many other types of surgeries performed by doctors every day, and it is very effective for most who obtain it.
So when is the right time for carpal tunnel surgery? As soon as your doctor agrees that it is time. Next time your doctor asks you if you want to try another conservative treatment approach or go ahead with surgery, it is a good time to finally obtain the surgery; it will help you regain proper use of your hand and begin living a normal life again. The sooner you obtain the surgery, the more effective it will be.
The Danger of Waiting Too Long For Carpal Tunnel Surgery
While the time it takes to try a few conservative carpal tunnel treatments should not put you in danger of detrimental long-term consequence of untreated carpal tunnel syndrome, if you put it off too long, you can suffer from permanent nerve damage in your affected hand and wrist. This can lead to complete loss of hand function.
Carpal Tunnel Surgery Options Offered by Medical Orthopedics Specialists
When you visit a medical orthopedic surgeon, he or she will examine your hand and wrist and ask you a variety of questions to help them determine the right surgery approach for you. The surgical technique used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome is called carpal tunnel release. This involves just one simple incision on the transverse carpal ligament in your wrist that is putting pressure on a nerve in your wrist called your median nerve. However, before that nerve can be cut, of course, a small incision must be made in the skin and tissue above the ligament to gain access to it.
The main decision your medical orthopedic surgeon will have to make while planning your surgery is whether to give you general anesthesia (put you under) or to give you local anesthesia, which involves simply numbing your wrist and hand, so you don't feel anything during your surgery. They will be willing to discuss which you prefer, and if you have medical conditions that can be aggravated by general anesthesia, you don't have to worry that you will have to be "put under" in order to have your carpal tunnel syndrome treated and relieved for good.
After surgery, many people never feel pain and tingling in their hands again beginning as soon as when that ligament is cut! However, some people do have to wait a few months for full pain relief.