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Does Carpal Tunnel Require Surgery?

Does Carpal Tunnel Require Surgery?

If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you’re probably familiar with the tingling, numbness, and weakness that it causes. You’re likely hoping for treatment so that you can regain the full function of your hand, but does carpal tunnel syndrome always require surgery? 

At Orthocenter, our providers usually start with the least invasive treatment available and then progress to procedures that carry some risk, like surgery. Carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t an exception — you can expect progressive treatment as we work toward resolving your pain and helping you regain the full use of your hand and wrist. 

Wrist Anatomy

Before we talk about treating carpal tunnel syndrome, we should talk about exactly what it is and why it causes pain. In your wrist, there’s an area where the bones form a tunnel–the carpal tunnel—and your median nerve and nine tendons pass through it.  Your median nerve controls your fingers and provides sensation to your thumb and some of your fingers. 

Anything that causes the tunnel to become narrower, such as swelling or inflammation, can put pressure on the median nerve, which can cause all the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome you’re familiar with.

Several factors can lead to a narrowed carpal tunnel. For example, some people simply have small frames and not much space in their wrists. Other possible causes include: 

Nonsurgical treatments

One of the first things to do when you have carpal tunnel syndrome is to begin modifying your activities. If overuse is an issue, changing your daily habits is crucial. Some people sleep with a fist curled under their chin, which can cause problems they’re not even aware of. 

If possible, adjust your daily activities to protect your wrist. In some cases, this is enough to allow the tissues to heal and the inflammation to subside.

Bracing to immobilize your wrist is another option that may afford your wrist time to heal. We may also recommend that you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation.

If rest and immobilization don’t ease your pain, we may suggest corticosteroid injections to help lessen the inflammation. Physical therapy and specific exercises to help reduce the pressure on your median nerve may also be part of your treatment program. 


If more conservative treatments don’t help, we may advise you to consider surgery. The most common type of surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome is called carpal tunnel release.

When the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome last for longer than six months and other treatments don’t work, you may begin losing strength in your hands and wrists. The condition will continue to worsen without treatment.

Although any surgical procedure has some risks, the majority of people who have carpal tunnel release surgery are satisfied with the outcome. Few people need another surgery or experience adverse outcomes. 

Getting treatment is better than losing the use of your hand. If you’ve been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, schedule an appointment at the most convenient location of Orthocenter and learn your treatment options.

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