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A Real Pain in the Wrist: Carpal Tunnel 101

with Allison Hunter, MD

Hand & Upper Extremity Surgeon

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a relatively common condition that occurs when there’s too much pressure on the median nerve that crosses the wrist. It’s caused by multiple factors, including repetitive movements, workplace ergonomics, and genetics. Patients who have carpal tunnel syndrome will experience numbness in the hands and fingers, which then leads them to have trouble sleeping. They may be tossing and turning and waking up in the middle of the night to shake out their hands.

Remedies for carpal tunnel syndrome start with conservative treatments. “Wrist splints can help relieve the night symptoms, and there are also nerve and tendon gliding exercises you can do at home,” said Dr. Allison Hunter, orthopedic surgeon at Baldwin Bone and Joint. “Your doctor might also prescribe anti-inflammatories to decrease pain and swelling.”

However, these treatments won’t always resolve the issues and your physician may recommend surgery. For patients who have a mild or moderate case of carpal tunnel syndrome that’s been diagnosed, an innovative surgery called endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery may be your best bet.

While another major or “open” type of carpal tunnel surgery requires a large incision into the palm and wrist, an endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery only involves a small incision at the level of the wrist crease to gain entrance into the narrow passageway called the carpal tunnel. From there, a tiny camera guides the surgery itself. The surgery only takes about 10 minutes and patients should be able to return to work within a few days post-operation. “Larger incisions in the palm are under more tension and may be more at risk for skin incisional complications,” Dr. Hunter said. “In general, endoscopic carpal tunnel release is often less painful, offers less blood loss, and lessens recovery time after carpal tunnel surgery.”

Baldwin Bone and Joint is committed to offering patients innovative procedures that provide successful outcomes and the best quality of life. Not all surgeons have the experience to perform endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery, but Dr. Hunter at Baldwin Bone and Joint is a fellowship-trained Hand and Upper Extremity surgeon with the familiarity and training necessary to offer this type of surgery. “The smaller incision is an advantage for the patient because it can resolve the symptoms while allowing the patients to get back to everyday life sooner,” she said.

Have more questions about an endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery or how you can address carpal tunnel syndrome? Get in touch with Dr. Allison Hunter or one of our experts at Baldwin Bone and Joint.