Patients suffering from extreme pain due to carpal tunnel syndrome may be recommended surgery. Carpal tunnel surgery may be suggested by doctors to individuals who have experienced prolonged pain in the wrist and finger areas leading to sleepless nights and disruption to work schedules.
Following are some of the more frequently asked questions about Carpal Tunnel Surgery and the various options available.
|The Two Main Types of Carpal Tunnel Surgery|
How long does the surgery actually take?
The time for carpal tunnel surgery is about 20 to 30 minutes although the total time with pre-surgical preparation and administration of local anesthetic can take about 2 hours. Patients are usually discharged on the same day.
Surgeons use what is called ‘twilight anesthesia’ which is a form of temporary anesthesia different from general anesthesia.
Who requires carpal tunnel surgery?
Carpal tunnel surgery may be recommended to patients with the following indications:
- Moderate to severe symptoms over a duration exceeding 10 months
- Shrinking of the muscles of the palm
- Patients above the age of 50
- Prolonged numbness in the palm and wrist areas
For more information on carpal tunnel surgery, you could refer to the following resources:
How much does it cost to have carpal tunnel surgery?
The cost of carpal tunnel surgery varies anywhere from about $5000 to $13,000 depending on the clinic and rehabilitation period. The cost also depends on whether you require surgery on both your hands or one hand.
How long does it take to recover after carpal tunnel surgery?
Recovering after carpal tunnel surgery typically takes about 6 to 8 months but the time period varies between patients. Your surgeon will advise you on how long you need to be careful about using your hand and how much repetitive movement you can expose it to.
Workers are usually absent for about one month of work before they can come back. You can expect to do some light work after about 3 weeks and can handle slightly heavier work after a lapse of about 5 weeks.
The recovery time after carpal tunnel surgery is faster after the endoscopy option compared to the open release surgery method. The recovery process also depends on the type of work that you do.
Can I drive a car after carpal tunnel surgery?
Yes, you can drive after carpal tunnel surgery when your hands are healed adequately in order to hold the steering wheel. It may not be safe to drive if you have been administered pain medication that may induce a slight drowsiness.
Can I do housework after carpal tunnel surgery?
You may need to rest your hands for about 3 to 4 days after surgery and it may challenging to handle simple household jobs such as cooking, shopping or managing young children. It is advisable to hire help for about 10days upto 2 weeks to help with basic housework.
The stitches are usually removed after about 10 days time along with the dressing. The hands may still feel tender and it is best not to overstrain your hands during this time. Take care to rest your hands and wrists at regular intervals to prevent overexertion.
While you must avoid strain, you are advised to use your wrists and hands lightly to facilitate movement and prevent stiffness.
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What are the typical indications after carpal tunnel surgery?
There are several symptoms that may manifest after a carpal tunnel surgery:
- The patient may display symptoms of an infection which is usually treated with antibiotics
- Temporary ‘parasthesia’ that involves a sharp, shooting pain that comes on when you try and grip something with your hands. The pain is typically experienced between your palm area right upto the tip of the middle finger
- Pillar pain: This refers to pain in the area surrounding the surgical point rather than on the point itself. You may ask your doctor to prescribe painkillers to manage the pain
- Limited range of motion with the hand: Some patients may experience limited range of movement with the operated hand for a short time until healing is complete
- Feeling of reduced grip ability in the hand: Patients are likely to feel a loss of strength and a feeling of weakness for 3 to 4 weeks after carpal tunnel surgery
- Post surgery scarring: There could be a persistent feeling of numbness at the scar location and the tenderness often lingers for about 3 to 4 months after the surgical procedure
- Sometimes, patients may also complain of discomfort or pain in the upper body such as shoulders and elbows
Overall, symptoms experienced after endoscopy are less severe compared to open incision surgery.
What are the possible severe side-effects of carpal tunnel surgery?
The most common severe side-effects following carpal tunnel surgery are a tingling post operation pain, numbness in the operated area and swelling. While in most cases, the symptoms subside in about 4 weeks; in rare cases the symptoms could intensify leading to a second surgical procedure.
Can I play sports like golf after carpal tunnel surgery?
You may have to lay off playing sports like golf or tennis that require you to have a strong grip. Your wrist and palm areas are still sore and tender and playing sports prematurely may end up aggravating the symptoms.
Ironically, golf and tennis players are more prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome in the first place given the repetitive strain on the wrist area. Patients are usually allowed to play golf at about 6 weeks after surgery while tennis is allowed after about 3 months.
When you begin to play sport, you may be advised to wear a wrist brace for some time until healing is complete.
What exercises can I do after carpal tunnel surgery?
Mild exercises are recommended after carpal tunnel surgery to prevent stiffness and swelling in the hand area.
- Bunch your fingers into a fist and release your fingers as much as you are able to. Repeat this movement about 20 to 30 times an hour as much as your dressing allows your hand to stretch. Your movements must be slow and gentle. Alternatively, you can also consider extending each finger one by one
- Keep the hand elevated above heart level for a period of 3 to 4 days to discourage accumulation of fluid. The elevated position helps the fluid drain downwards, consequently preventing swelling
- Once your wrist feels better, you can also improve flexion by rotating your hand slowly clockwise and anticlockwise. Keep your fingers closed and then gradually move your wrist in a circular motion
If you are experiencing pain, you can also consider applying a pack of ice or frozen peas on the numb area.
For more information on exercises after carpal tunnel surgery, please refer to the following resources:
What restrictions do I need to observe after carpal tunnel surgery?
As with any surgical procedure, there are certain restrictions that patients must keep in mind during post operative care.
- Avoid getting your operated hand wet during a bath or washing. Keep your hand dry by utilizing waterproof bandages so that your stitches do not get wet (this could lead to infection)
- Avoid using any balms or ointments that have not been prescribed by your doctor
- Gently apply prescribed medication but do not rub the skin
- It is best to avoid doing strenuous tasks upto 5 to 6 weeks after carpal tunnel surgery
- Avoid driving for upto 2 to 3 days after surgery. You may want to consider hiring transport until you are strong enough to drive (and also out of the influence of sedative painkillers)
- It is also to follow lifting restrictions following surgery. Patients are advised to avoid weights that exceed 7 to 8 lbs for about 3 weeks after carpal tunnel surgery
- Smoking could delay your body’s healing process and patients should avoid smoking in the aftermath of surgery
The more diligently you follow recommended therapy, the faster will be the recovery process.
Can I use a computer after carpal tunnel surgery?
You can begin doing normal office work including typing on a computer but you must take care to rest your hands at regular intervals. Using ergonomic workstation desks and keyboards can help your hands heal better.
Well-designed mouse controls and ergonomic keyboards can help ease the strain on your wrists and palms, consequently aid the healing process. Responsible employers invest in ergonomic office furniture to minimize discomfort for their employees and reduce health risks.
Resources that contain information about ergonomic office equipment to reduce carpal tunnel syndrome: