Is Surgery Necessary to Fix Carpal Tunnel?

Most people believe that if they are diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel that they have to have surgery to get out of pain and have the numbness go away. Why then are so many carpal tunnel surgeries unsuccessful? Maybe the pain and numbness is caused by something else than the carpal tunnel itself?

There are multiple issues that can cause carpal tunnel symptoms. Here are the major ones:

  1. Median Nerve Injury: This is what I have written a previous email about. If the nerve itself is causing the symptoms, and not the compression of the nerve by the carpal tunnel (and other structures that go through the carpal tunnel), then releasing the carpal tunnel will not correct the issue.
  2. Nerve problem in the Neck: It is pretty common that a patient will have a nerve root problem in the neck that presents as hand numbness and/or pain. Once again, if the neck is the issue, a surgery in the carpal tunnel won’t help you.
  3. Pain referral from the muscles of the forearm: This one is not quite as common as the first two, but the muscles of the forearm do refer pain into the wrist and hand. These muscles can also cause the numbness/tingling because the median nerve (carpal tunnel nerve) run through them to get to the wrist.
  4. Nerve entrapment at the shoulder: The brachial plexus is when the nerve roots from the neck come together by the clavicle, go underneath the clavicle, and go in front of the of the shoulder under the pec minor muscle. These nerve can become trapped in the tissues in and around the shoulder and cause the pain and numbness in the wrist and han

Those are the big players that mimic true carpal tunnel. The key is to be able to assess what is truly causing the carpal tunnel symptoms and where the injury is actually occurring. A good, thorough exam can definitely determine what is really going on and direct treatment. The good news is carpal tunnel can be treated for the most part without surgery and the risks that go with all surgeries.

If you are having trouble with carpal tunnel (or anything else) and need my help, don’t hesitate to give us a call and schedule an appointment!

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