Because carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition, many people are familiar with this cause of hand pain, tingling, and numbness. But this familiarity also creates a fair amount of misinformation circulating as well.
This article examines six myths about carpal tunnel syndrome and exposes them with researched and reliable information.
Myth #1: Any tingling or hand pain is an indication of carpal tunnel syndrome, especially if you use a computer all day.
At the first sign of tingling, pain or numbness in the hand or wrist, many assume that it’s a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome, especially if they sit at a computer for most of the day.
Carpal tunnel syndrome has certain symptoms that differentiate it from other conditions that can cause numbness and pain in the hand. For example, it typically causes tingling and numbness in the thumb, index, and middle fingers, but not the ring or pinky fingers and it is usually worse at night.
Myth #2: Only people who work in a factory or type all day get carpal tunnel syndrome.
Conditions that are work-related and involve high levels of hand-arm vibration or hand force, prolonged work with a flexed or extended wrist, or high repetitiveness are typically associated with a higher risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. However, there is no clinical evidence that work-related factors can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Myth #3: The only way to alleviate carpal tunnel pain is surgery.
Once carpal tunnel syndrome has been identified, surgery is not the only way to relieve the pain. There are several nonsurgical treatment options that can bring relief to individuals who want to postpone or avoid surgery. With a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome that involves wasting muscle or potentially permanent damage to the median nerve, surgery is advised as soon as possible.
Myth #4: Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome is often ineffective.
The surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, known as carpal tunnel release, is a common and largely-successful procedure. Studies suggest it has a clinical success rate of between 75 and 90%. Although it requires several weeks and physical therapy to restore grip strength, most patients enjoy a full recovery, with symptoms resolved and function reestablished.
Myth #5: Having carpal tunnel surgery means missing work for a long time.
Many people are hesitant to consider carpal tunnel surgery because they fear losing the use of their hand for weeks (or even months), or they don’t feel they can take enough time off work. But the recovery period for carpal tunnel release can be relatively quick; in fact, light non-repetitive use of the hand is permitted after about a week, when the bandage is removed.
Myth #6: The endoscopic approach is riskier than and open approach.
In the past, many patients were concerned or advised against the endoscopic approach for fear of an increased risk for complications such as nerve damage.
However, current research shows that there’s no statistically significant added risk of complications from the endoscopic approach.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is quite common, but it can be treated. If you suspect you might have it – or have been diagnosed but have questions about the treatment – call our office today to schedule a consultation. We have several nonsurgical options to provide relief from the pain.