Most of us use our hands almost every minute of the day without ever giving it a second thought. But if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, the pain, numbness, and tingling in your fingers get your attention. Treatments like wrist braces and corticosteroids can help, but in more severe cases, you may need surgery.

Sharkawy Clinics surgeons apply minimally invasive techniques when possible to reduce postoperative pain and quicken the return to function after carpal tunnel release surgery.

carpal tunnel release

Holding Hands

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on your median nerve. This is what gives you feeling in your thumb and all your fingers except your pinky. When the nerve goes through your wrist, it passes through the carpal tunnel -- a narrow path that’s made of bone and ligament. If you get any swelling in your wrist, that tunnel gets squeezed and pinches your median nerve. That, in turn, causes your symptoms.

what is the carpal tunnel


The carpal tunnel is a narrow canal in the wrist. The bottom and sides of the tunnel are formed by a semi-circle of bones called carpal bones. A strong tissue, called a ligament, forms the top of the tunnel. The median nerve and tendons pass through this narrow space. (The tendons are “rope-like” structures that connect muscles in the forearm to bones in the hand.) Tendons allow the fingers and thumb to bend and straighten. Conditions that further narrow the carpal tunnel or cause the tendons that pass through this tunnel to swell cause carpal tunnel syndrome by compressing the median nerve.

Surgery is recommended when carpal tunnel syndrome does not respond to non-surgical treatments or has already become severe. The goal of surgery is to increase the size of the tunnel in order to decrease pressure on the nerves and tendons that pass through the tunnel. This is done by cutting (“releasing”) the ligament that covers the carpal tunnel at the base of the palm. This ligament is called the transverse carpal ligament.

Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome is an outpatient procedure that is usually performed under local anesthesia (you will be awake) but sedation can be added for comfort. After surgery, brief discomfort lasts 24 to 72 hours. However, patients often experience complete nighttime symptom relief even the night after surgery. Stiches are removed 10 to 14 days after surgery. Hand and wrist use for everyday activities are gradually restored using a specific exercise program.

Heavier activities with the affected hand are restricted for 4 to 6 weeks. Recovery times vary depending on the patient’s age, general health, severity of carpal tunnel syndrome, and the length of time symptoms have been present. Strength and sensation continue to improve over the following year.

Many patients who undergo carpal tunnel release surgery achieve nearly complete relief of all symptoms. Recovery in some individuals with severe carpal tunnel syndrome may be slow and may not be complete. Carpal tunnel syndrome can reoccur, but this is not common.