Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is an extremely painful and debilitating condition in which the median nerve that runs from the forearm to the palm through a canal called the carpal tunnel in the wrist is compressed. The carpal tunnel is a hollow, bony tube that connects the wrist to the hand and encases not just the median nerve but numerous tendons and ligaments. When these tissues become inflamed, they impinge upon the median nerve, preventing it from sending signals to the palm, thumb, and fingers. Inflammation also decreases the flow of blood to the median nerve; if not corrected, permanent nerve damage may result.
The most common symptoms of CTS include tingling, numbness, a burning sensation, impaired motion, swelling, cramps, weakness, aches, and shooting pains. If CTS is not diagnosed and treated by a hand and wrist surgeon, such as Dr. Michael Fitzmaurice of the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute in Scottsdale, the protective insulators around the median nerve and other nerves may be worn down within a matter of weeks, leading to permanent damage.
Every year, approximately 1% of the general American population and 5% of the working population that uses repetitive hand or arm motions are affected by CTS.
But did you know that most of what you thought you knew about CTS is probably wrong?
Common Misconceptions About CTS
Myth #1: Typing causes carpal tunnel syndrome
While it was the advent of the personal computer that brought carpal tunnel syndrome to the forefront of public awareness way back in the 1980s, typing doesn’t seem to actually cause much CTS. Only about 10% of workers who use a keyboard and/or mouse repetitively complain of CTS-like symptoms, and many of them do not actually have CTS. Even accounting for those who do have CTS, the incidence is still much less among office workers than in professions that require more physical labor.
Myth #2: Only people who work in a factory all day get CTS
Workers in industries that require repetitive tugging, pressing, pulling, pushing or stamping are at a high risk for CTS, however, there are other professions that also have a high incidence.
You might expect that the following workers would be at risk for CTS:
- Meat packers
- Construction workers
- Automotive workers
But the following professions also use repetitive motions that can impinge on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel:
- Correctional officers
- Maids and janitors
- Highway maintenance workers
- Electrical power workers
In fact, musicians have a very high risk for CTS; up to 20% of professional musicians suffer from CTS or other nerve disorders in their hands and wrists.
Myth #3: If your hand hurts or tingles, you have carpal tunnel syndrome
There are many conditions that can cause symptoms that are similar to those of CTS:
- Ulnar tunnel syndrome
- De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
- Trigger finger or snapping finger
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- Cubital tunnel syndrome
Only a medical diagnosis can determine if you have CTS and if you would benefit from endoscopic carpal tunnel treatment.
Myth #4: CTS only affects the wrists
While you may feel weakness or pain in your wrist when you have CTS, the median nerve also affects sensation in the arm, palm, thumb, index finger, middle finger, and thumb side of the ring finger. Any of these can develop weakness, pain, tingling, numbness or other signs of CTS.
Myth #5: Carpal tunnel surgery requires large incisions and a long recovery period
Traditional open surgery for CTS requires long, deep incisions and a 6- to 8-week recovery period. Those who wanted to avoid surgery might undergo a series of treatments with anti-inflammatory drugs, splints, steroids, and physical therapy. Unfortunately, these often usually fail and they can actually worsen nerve damage. If pressure on the median nerve is not alleviated, permanent damage can occur in as little as two months. Learn about open carpal tunnel surgery at WebMD.com.
Quick Relief for CTS with Minimally-Invasive Hand Surgery
In order to more effectively treat those with CTS, the innovative hand surgeon, Dr. Michael J. Fitzmaurice developed the revolutionary, minimally invasive EndoTech® procedure to improve the endoscopic carpal tunnel syndrome release. In contrast to traditional endoscopic CTS surgery, EndoTech® is performed using a single small incision, thereby minimizing trauma to the hand. The doctor then inserts a tiny camera that can visualize the median nerve as well as the surrounding tendons and blood vessels. Such clear and accurate visualization minimizes risks as pressure on the nerve is released, leading to zero serious complications in the more than 4,000 surgeries that have been performed at the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute to date.
This patent-pending, proprietary, high-tech procedure is only available from the wrist and hand specialists at the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute and at our newly opened Hand & Wrist Urgent Care center, which are both near Phoenix in Scottsdale, Arizona.
EndoTech® is far less painful and traumatic than traditional CTS surgery. The dressings are removed after a few days and most patients can return to work within six days. In contrast, typical endoscopic CTS surgery has a recovery time of 20 days and traditional open surgery may need as much as a 38-day recovery period!
Owing to the improved visibility of EndoTech®, there is also a decreased risk of persistent or recurrent symptoms compared with other techniques. When combined with our NeuroRejuvenation procedure, which uses the patient’s stem cells collected from abdominal fat, wound healing is even quicker, with less risk of any scar tissue and subsequent recurrence. This decreases the likelihood of requiring any further surgery years later — unlike other techniques, which have a higher risk of recurrence and subsequent surgery.
It Starts With an Expert Diagnosis in Scottsdale
If you suspect you have CTS or are experiencing pain, tingling, numbness or other uncomfortable sensations in your fingers, thumb, palm, wrist, arm or elbow, contact Dr. Fitzmaurice and his team at the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute today to schedule a video consultation or to make an appointment at our office in Scottsdale near Phoenix. You can be diagnosed and even treated in the same facility on the same day, if needed.
From revolutionary high-tech surgeries to nutritional support that helps regrow nerves, Dr. Fitzmaurice and his team are dedicated to bringing your hands and wrists back to working order.