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The Rise And Rise Of Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Most jobs require the use of hands and wrists. Many professions need persons using fingers and hands for several hours a day. This repetitive use has created a rise in carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS. The condition causes pain and numbness in the hands. Over 10 million persons suffer from CTS with 900,000 new cases yearly. This has made minimally invasive carpal tunnel surgery the second most performed surgery in America. While thousands have surgery, patients often wish to know the recovery period needed for the procedure.
A crowded carpal tunnel
A network of nerves lives in the hand, sending signals to each finger. These signals determine flexibility and grip strength. The main median nerve passes through a shaft of tendons and bones called the carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the carpal tunnel gets inflamed and presses on the median nerve. This causes numbness, pain, and a loss of grip strength. Causes of CTS range from trauma, repetitive use, joint stress, to even arthritis and pregnancy. Research suggests that the condition can also be hereditary.
Minimal cuts, maximum impact
To help ease the pain, doctors will often perform a minimally invasive carpal tunnel surgery. The procedure calls for the surgeon to make incisions in the tendons surrounding the median nerve. This gives the nerve the breathing room needed to function effectively. Surgeons make small incisions at the base of the wrist. Then using an endoscope and small tools, doctors assess and treat the damage. While this is an outpatient procedure, several factors determine the time before patients can return to work.
Are you fit for work?
After surgery, the surrounding tendons grow back and gives the nerves much-needed space. However, the full recovery period varies. The doctor will remove the stitches after 2 weeks. From there, recovery can take a few weeks to several months. The degree of damage is the most significant factor for recovery. Some persons can return to work in 4-8 weeks with the right recovery plan. Other patients ignored the pain for years, causing long-term damage. As a result, recovery can take several months, needing medication and therapy.
Give me a hand
Carpal tunnel surgery often happens on the dominant hand. In this case, the timing of return can take twice as long. The doctor will want to ensure a full recovery. The chances of injuring again become higher, especially with work that needs the dominant hand. Surgery on the non-dominant hand means a return to work can happen in as little as 4 weeks.
It’s not working out
Doctors will also need to know the patient’s job type for a return date. Some jobs require long periods of using the wrist and fingers. With a proper plan in place, including rest and ergonomic equipment, work can resume in a few weeks. Jobs operating heavy machinery or high-powered, vibrating tools can cause CTS more than others. The chances of re-aggravating the injury increases substantially. Patients can return to work with a reduced workload. But there have been cases where the job is too dangerous for the injury. In these cases, the patient needs to change jobs for the sake of preserving the carpal tunnel.
Please practice patience
Carpal tunnel can be a painful and debilitating condition. Persons with carpal tunnel lose valuable time and money away from work. Health should take priority, and persons should not rush recovery. A doctor must clear any return to work. With the right care and physical therapy, most persons can go back to work within 1 month. Speak with a doctor or hand surgeon to learn more about a recovery timeline.