Understanding the Basics Behind Hand & Wrist Pain
What is Carpal Tunnel Release?
Acute hand and wrist injuries can strike at any given moment, whether you’re doing a normal daily task or enjoying your favorite hobby. However, certain injuries are due to repetitive motions over time and can be influenced by your genetics. This is the case with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Most of us think of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as an ailment that occurs due to constant typing at work or writing in your free time. While this can certainly play a factor, research shows that there are a number of different factors that can play a role in increasing the risk of irritation or damage to the area. These can include arthritis, adjacent fracture, swelling, obesity, genetic conditions like diabetes and even your gender.
Regardless of wrist issues you’re dealing with—whether it’s a sprain, strain, fracture, ligament tear—help is available. The highly skilled providers at Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance can help you find the necessary treatments to get you back to pain-free living.
Some of the common signs of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome include:
- Burning and tightening of the fingers
- Weakness in grip
- A prickly “pins and needles” type feeling in the fingers
- And more
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance hand & Wrist Assessment
Assessing the Injury
Determining the proper treatment process for hand and wrist injuries starts with an assessment from one of our experienced providers. You can think of hand and wrist pain as a spectrum, with some instances being more severe than others.
The KCOA orthopedic specialists always focus on each patient and their concerns before creating a treatment plan.
Therefore, during your initial appointment, we will often ask questions such as:
From there, we can decide what treatment option will align best with your needs and lifestyle goals.
- Does your pain currently limit you or your activities?
- Has your pain progressed or worsened recently?
- Are you having numbness or tingling in the hand, wrist or fingers?
- Have you noticed any change in your symptoms that has made it more challenging to function?
- What are your lifestyle goals?
- How has pain affected those goals?
Once we’ve completed a proper assessment, your provider will often begin with a physical examination to help determine the origin point of your pain. In some cases, advanced testing may be required for a full diagnosis. This may include:
Also called radiographs, an X-ray captures a picture of the wrist. Orthopedic physicians may order an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture (broken bone), osteoarthritis, or other bone-related conditions.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI captures images of muscles, bones, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons to help provide information other tests can’t detail. During an MRI, you will lie on a table that slides into a tube-shaped scanner. The machine creates a magnetic field around you, using pulsed radio waves to form the MRI images.
Electromyograms (EMG) and Nerve Conduction Studies
Our board-certified physiatrists utilize electromyograms (EMGs) and nerve conduction studies to help determine whether nerves and muscles respond properly to stimuli. The EMG measures the electrical activity of your muscles at rest and in motion, while nerve conduction studies determine how fast and effectively your nerves and muscles receive electrical signals.
Establishing a Care Plan
Based on the results of your interview, examination, and imaging studies, you can expect a custom care plan catered specifically to you.
Many people believe it’s best to wait until their pain becomes severe, leading them to “put off” or delay treatments like carpal tunnel release.
If you are in constant discomfort, have shooting or stabbing pains, have limited range of motion, constant numbness and tingling or increasing inability to perform your daily activities, a treatment like carpal tunnel release may be right for you.
New technologies allow patients with severe hand and wrist concerns to fully recover and enjoy the benefits of a more active, pain-free lifestyle.
Prior to surgery, you will typically receive at least two phone calls:
- A hospital registration representative will call to gather insurance and other personal information.
- A registered nurse will call to review your health history and medication information.
Dependent on your health history, your physician may require:
- Pre-surgical laboratory tests
- Primary care clearance
Pre-operative instructions will vary depending on your physician and the location of your surgery. Always check with your physician before surgery for their specific instructions.
Most physicians require that patients do not eat or drink after midnight prior to surgery.
Additionally, you will need to designate a family member or friend to drive you home on the day you are released from the hospital. Surgical patients cannot drive themselves home.
Day of Surgery
If you schedule your surgery at Kansas City Orthopedic Institute, you can expect the following on surgery day:
- A receptionist will check you in at the registration desk.
- A nurse will take you back and prepare you for surgery. They will start an IV, prepare the surgical site, and review your medical history and medications.
- Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will visit with you prior to your operation.
- The surgical team will take you to the operation suite for surgery.
How it Works
Carpal tunnel release is a minimally invasive surgery that is also an outpatient procedure, which means that patients can return home the same day. There are two types of carpal tunnel release procedures, an open procedure and an endoscopic one.
Open surgery involves making a small incision large enough to allow the physician to view all aspects of the carpal tunnel, while endoscopic surgery involves using a thin, flexible tube that contains a camera put into the wrist through a small incision.
Before your carpal tunnel release, your provider will use a local anesthetic to numb both the hand and wrist areas. If an open release surgery is the best procedure for your needs, your surgeon will make a small incision to cut the carpal ligament and enlarge the carpal tunnel.
With an endoscopic release, your surgeon will make two half-inch incisions and attach a camera to a narrow tube. The camera helps guide the surgeon so that they can cut the ligament through the other incision. Once completed, your surgeon will stitch up the area and place your hand and wrist in a splint or securing bandage.
Each patient’s recovery plan and timeline for healing will differ based on several factors. Age, activity level, your current health, your goals for recovery, and more will all play a role.
It’s important to take care of your body to ensure optimal results following your procedure. Rest, ice, and elevation are all critical during this time.
You may be in a splint or bandage for up to1 to 2 weeks, after which your provider will remove one or the other.
What to Expect
Once removed, patients will begin a therapy program, and your therapist will help guide you through different exercises to strengthen the area and improve your range of motion in the hand and wrist.
Though everyone’s recovery timeline is different, most patients can expect to resume work or adjust their duties in the initial days following the procedure.
For the best possible outcome, it’s important that all patients follow their aftercare instructions.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
There are numerous potential causes of pain when it comes to hand and wrist injuries. Similar to other areas of your body, there are a number of different parts working together in your hand and wrist, leading to many different chances for injury or chronic pain. Each of these causes comes with its own distinct set of symptoms.
For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome specifically, several different risk factors can lead to this condition. Your carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist, and it contains the median nerve that stretches down the entire arm. When the tunnel becomes narrow, it causes pressure on the median nerve and reduces its blood supply, causing the complications associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
The causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are multifactorial. Handling tools that require a lot of force or that impart a significant amount of vibration can contribute to symptoms. Maintaining a poor wrist position over an extended period of usage can contribute to symptoms as well. While these factors can certainly play a role in developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, arthritis, fractures, age, or genetics can also meaningfully affect the condition.
Causes of Hand & Wrist Pain
The body has a number of different joints that all work in unison in order to function normally.
However, all of these different working parts means that your hand and wrist can face a variety of potential injuries. How severe your hand and wrist pain is will vary depending on a few different key factors, including both the location and the source of the problem.
As with many of the other joints in your body, both the hand and wrist are susceptible to acute injuries, it can be susceptible to injuries that occur acutely or more chronic conditions that build up over the years because of repetitive motions or poor form. The soft tissue of your hand and wrist, consisting of muscles, tendons, nerves, and ligaments, help to protect these joints and bones.
Whether you’re suffering from an acute or chronic injury, the hand and wrist specialists at Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance are here to assist. We’ll help you find the root cause of your pain and determine whether a carpal tunnel release is right for you or if you require a different treatment.
In most cases, surgery is not the first option for treatment at Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance. If we can treat your hand and wrist issues with more conservative treatments, we’ll choose those options. We typically exhaust all non-surgical options prior to recommending surgery.
Non-surgical treatments for the hand & wrist and include:
A trained therapist will focus on the issue that’s causing the pain or symptoms as well as the deficits that are present as a result of the injury. Stretches, strengthening exercises, manual soft tissue work, and modalities like hot and cold therapy may help you recover.=
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil) or prescription medications. Especially with NSAIDs, you should always talk to your doctor to ensure they are the right treatment for you.
Therapeutic injections can help reduce inflammation, and the effects tend to last for 3 to 6 months. During that time, we often encourage patients to work with a therapist to improve strength and flexibility, while their symptoms are being aided by the medication. Many people manage their pain with injections and physical therapy.
Regenerative medicine, like stem cell injections or platelet-rich plasma, can help nourish worn or damaged tissue. This option works best if you have mild-to-moderate wrist pain.
Your physician may prescribe a brace to help maintain your wrist in a neutral position while the inflammation or swelling associated with your injury subside.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance is here to help.
Our care is personal. Our team is knowledgeable. And we’re more available than ever.
With access to board-certified specialists across Kansas City, we have the tools to meet almost every musculoskeletal condition.
Overland Park, Kansas10777 Nall Ave Suite 300 Overland Park, KS 66211
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Merriam, Kansas7450 W. Frontage Rd Merriam, KS 66203
The first thing that I noticed was the traffic flow. This may sound strange but people were being seen and sent out on their way. There was not a huge roomful of frustrated, tired patients. If most (I assume) had uncomfortable and or painful maladies, they didn’t have to wait forever for attention. That was how it was for me. Professional and personable patient care.
Great people who are very willing to help you work through the best way to handle your injury.
6 weeks post op and Dr. Brown says I’m progressing well. She’s very knowledgeable, and is very quick to answer any questions I have. She’s also very personable, we laughed a lot during my last appointment. Looking forward to seeing her again.
My experience with Dr. Moore, at Apex Sports Medicine has been very positive. She is very competent and confident in her abilities. She is very thorough in explaining things and answers any and all questions. I am very pleased.