If you're one of the 2.7 percent of the population that suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome, getting relief from the symptoms is likely your top concern. While there are many non-surgical treatment options available for this condition, sometimes surgery may be required. Here are three questions to ask to help you determine if it's appropriate for your situation.
Is There Nerve Damage?
Carpal tunnel is caused by excess pressure placed on the wrists and the nerves contained there. The condition gradually worsens as you continue to participate in the tasks that lead to its development (e.g. typing). If your carpal tunnel is left untreated, or you wait too long to seek out treatment, nerve damage can occur that can lead to permanent disability in your hands.
A medical professional will typically monitor your condition and perform tests on a regular basis to determine the health of your nerves in this area. If it appears that there is a risk of damage to median nerve (or it's already damaged), he or she will recommend surgery.
Nerve damage is irreversible. Therefore, if the non-surgical treatments you've been undergoing isn't working or can't slow down the progression of nerve damage, then it's best to follow your healthcare provider's advice and get the surgery done.
How Long Have You Experienced Symptoms?
While nerve damage often serves as a significant indicator that surgery is needed—and urgently so—it's not the only one. You need to also consider how long you've been experiencing symptoms and their severity. It doesn't make sense to take the nuclear option if you're in the early stages of the condition or your symptoms are fairly mild. In this case, it's best to opt for non-surgical options such as hot/cold therapy and wrist exercises.
On the other hand, if you've been experiencing symptoms for years or those symptoms are significantly interfering with your ability to function in your daily life, then you may want to go ahead and green light the surgery. For instance, if you lose all feeling in your hands or are unable to coordinate your hand and finger movements as well as you used to, it may be time to go under the knife.
Can You Change Your Lifestyle?
A third question you need to ask is whether you can make the necessary changes to your lifestyle to prevent carpal tunnel from developing or advancing again. Surgery can go a long way towards restoring hand and finger function as well as reducing pain. In fact, surgery has a 90 percent success rate, so it's very effective. Regardless of well the surgery may treat your condition, it will be all for naught if you continue engaging in the same behaviors that caused carpal tunnel in the first place.
If you can't make the required adjustments, then it may be best to wait to do the surgery until you can. For instance, if you type for living, you may want to wait until you can change jobs or obtain assistive equipment that may reduce the amount of stress placed on your wrists by your repetitive work.
Additionally, you'll likely need to start or continue with non-surgical treatment options to prolong the relief the surgery provided. For instance, you may still be required to wear a wrist brace for a period of time after the surgery or even for the rest of your life. It's important to discuss the type of lifestyle changes you'll need to make with your healthcare provider and ensure you can make them before deciding on the surgery.
For more information about surgery or other treatment options for carpal tunnel, contact a orthopedic specialist, like one from Town Center Orthopaedic Associates, P.C.