Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve to the hand is compressed as it passes through an opening between the wrist and palm. Compression is often caused by swelling of the tendons and may result from repetitive motions such as typing. Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of symptoms.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment Options
Treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome range from splinting and daily activity changes to carpal tunnel release surgery. If carpal tunnel syndrome is caught early, you may be able to slow the progression of the disease or stop it from getting worse.
If your symptoms are mild, nonsurgical treatments may effectively treat carpal tunnel syndrome. Your doctor may recommend:
- Splinting: wearing a splint keeps your wrist in a straight position, which reduces pressure on the nerve in the carpal tunnel.
- Activity changes: repetitive wrist movements can worsen carpal tunnel syndrome. Our occupational therapists can recommend adjustments to your workspace or daily activities that can help reduce pain.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): pain relievers such as ibuprofen can reduce pain and inflammation.
- Nerve gliding exercises: your doctor or therapist may show you how to do certain exercises that help the nerve move more freely within the carpal tunnel.
- Steroid injections: a cortisone injection can reduce inflammation in the carpal tunnel. However, the effect may be temporary.
Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery
If nonsurgical treatments are not effective, your doctor may recommend surgery. The procedure for carpal tunnel syndrome is called “carpal tunnel release.” During carpal tunnel release surgery, the surgeon cuts the transverse carpal ligament at the top of the carpal tunnel. This opens the tunnel and relieves pressure on the median nerve. Carpal tunnel release can be performed as an endoscopic procedure, in which the surgeon makes small cuts and uses a tiny camera to see inside your wrist. This technique is offered to reduce pain and shorten recovery time. Our surgeons perform carpal tunnel release as an outpatient surgery, which means you spend less time in the hospital.
After surgery, you can expect some pain and swelling, which should lessen over time. You may need to wear a splint or brace for several weeks, but should be able to use your hand for light activities. Your doctor or therapist may teach you exercises to help you regain strength in your hand.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Why Choose Johns Hopkins?
- The type of treatment you need for carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of your symptoms. We will recommend the best treatment plan to help you return to everyday activities with as little pain and as much function as possible.
- Our hand and wrist specialists are fellowship trained and conduct research to improve nerve surgery.
- Our team prides itself on providing careful personalized attention to each patient. We will guide you through treatment and recovery, from your first visit to treatment and physical therapy.