What is Carpal Tunnel & What Causes CTS? – Brown Hand Center Answers Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

A: Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) begins with numbness and tingling in the hand and may also ache in the hand, forearm, or shoulder. It is a very common condition that is caused by a pinched nerve in the palm of the hand. The symptoms may occur intermittently, during the daytime and sometimes at night, awakening one from sleep. It is not uncommon for the sufferer to think the hands have “poor circulation” and shake them in an attempt to restore circulation. See Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Q: What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

A: Repetitive motions may cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Any activity that involves grasping, squeezing, or clipping, such as using tools or a computer, knitting, or playing the piano, can lead to CTS. However, carpal tunnel often develops without repetitive motion.

Q: Can I wait until it gets worse? Maybe it will just go away.

A: Not taking action can lead to irreversible damage. If you have CTS, the nerve that provides sensation to the hand and function to the thumb is being “pinched.” After remaining in the pinched stage for a period of time, permanent injury to the nerve will result. There is no treatment that can fully restore hand function and sensation once permanent damage is sustained.

Q: Is surgery always necessary?

A: No. Your surgeon at Brown Hand Center will first examine your hands and review your symptoms. If you have something other than Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, the doctor will suggest the appropriate treatment. If CTS is suspected, a test conducted on the nerve will positively determine whether it is pinched and if you have CTS.

Q: What happens after consultation?

A: Non-operative treatment is recommended if the total duration of symptoms does not exceed eight weeks and symptoms disappear completely. Otherwise, the Brown Procedure, an endoscopic (“from the inside”) carpal tunnel technique, is recommended. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis; no hospital stay is required. With this proven endoscopic technique, the recovery period is about seven days compared to several weeks or months with the older open carpal tunnel release technique of cutting through the palm to reach the right ligament.

Q: Do I have a choice of surgeries?

A: Yes, you ALWAYS have a choice. You can either have the traditional carpal tunnel release surgery in which a longitudinal incision is performed in the palm of the hand or have it done through the endoscopic Brown Procedure. Both are effective. With the traditional technique, however, normal tissues are divided in the palm, and the wound in the palm remains tender for several weeks or months, preventing a quick return to work or recreational activities. With the Brown Procedure, these structures are not injured. There are no stitches, and typically there are no restrictions after seven days.

Q: Do you treat other hand problems besides CTS?

A: Yes. We are hand surgeons extensively trained in techniques of plastic, orthopedic, neuro-, microvascular, and reconstructive treatment of the upper extremity. Because of our extensive experience, sufferers with other hand problems can find effective treatment at Brown Hand Center. See Other Hand & Arm Problems.

Q: Why come to Brown Hand Center?

A: We practice hand surgery exclusively. Our clinical and supporting staff members are not only exceptionally professional in every way, they are fully committed to your care.

Q: What should I do now?

A: Call for an appointment today! See Locations for contact information in your city.

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