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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hands. This condition begins slowly and gradually progresses, making your hand tingly, numb, weak, or painful. 


Carpal tunnel syndrome causes tingling, numbness, weakness, or radiating pain in the fingers, hand and arm. It could also cause weakness in the arm or hand.  You may be more likely to get it if you have a problem like an underactive thyroid or diabetes, if you are pregnant, or if you overuse your hand or wrist, especially if you perform repetitive movements.


If you think you are experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, you should discuss your symptoms with your physician.  He or she may recommend

  • over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin
  • cold compresses
  • splints
  • physical therapy
  • other prescription pain medications
  • steroid injections directly into your arm or hand.

Because repetitive activities, such as typing, could trigger or worsen carpal tunnel syndrome, take frequent breaks and rest your hands often to try to reduce symptoms and alleviate the need for a surgical procedure.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Carpal tunnel release is a surgery that helps reduce pressure on this nerve and treat carpal tunnel symptoms.  If pain, numbness, or weakness continues or worsens after trying nonsurgical treatments, your doctor may recommend carpal tunnel release. Your surgeon will perform an electromyogram (EMG) test to check for abnormal muscle electrical activity, which is common in carpal tunnel syndrome.

There are two methods for performing carpal tunnel release surgical procedures: open carpal tunnel release and endoscopic carpal tunnel release.

Open Carpal Tunnel Release:  The surgeon makes a small incision near the lower section of the palm, near the wrist, to cut the carpal ligament and reduce pressure on the median nerve.  Sometimes, tissue around the nerve is removed. 

Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release:  The surgeon makes a small cut near the lower section of the palm, near the wrist, in order to insert an endoscope. This is a long, flexible tube with an attached light and camera. The camera takes video from inside your wrist and these images appear on a monitor in the operating room. Your surgeon will insert other tools through this opening and cut the carpal ligament to reduce pressure on your nerve. The tools and endoscope are removed, and the incision is closed. This outpatient procedure takes about 15 to 60 minutes.

For more information about surgeons who treat carpal tunnel syndrome, contact our physician referral service, 215-481-MEDI (6334).

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