Nearly one to three individuals out of every 1,000 each year are affected by carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’re suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, you may experience debilitating hand pain, numbness, and tingling.
When conservative treatments like physical therapy or medication fail to provide relief, endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery may become a viable option. This surgical procedure can offer long-term relief. But as with any surgery, it’s important to understand the recovery process.
Below is a comprehensive guide that explores endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery recovery time and what to expect.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that affects the wrist. It involves a narrow passageway, approximately one inch wide, known as the carpal tunnel. This tunnel is formed by small wrist bones called carpal bones.
CTS develops when the carpal tunnel narrows. It also occurs when the tissue surrounding the flexor tendons swells, exerting pressure on the median nerve and compromising its blood supply. This can lead to various symptoms, including:
- Numbness and tingling in the thumb, index, and middle fingers
- Pain and a burning sensation in the hand and wrist
- Decreased feeling in the fingertips
- Pain that may radiate up the arm to the elbow
- Reduced sensation in the affected hand
- Difficulty using the hand for small tasks such as writing
- Weakness in the hand, leading to diminished grip strength
Symptoms often worsen at night.
What Are the Causes?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of the primary causes and risk factors for CTS include:
- Engaging in repetitive hand and wrist movements
- Congenital factors such as being born with narrower carpal tunnel canals
- Wrist injuries like fractures or sprains
- Hormonal changes such as pregnancy, menopause, or the use of birth control
- Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, gout, or obesity
These factors can contribute to the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome. Recognizing them is essential for early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
What Is Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery?
Endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament to free the median nerve in the wrist. This method employs an endoscope, a slender tube with an attached camera. It allows doctors to visualize and operate within the wrist without the need for a large incision.
Here’s a step-by-step process for endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery:
Step 1: Preparation
The surgeon will clean and sterilize the surgical area. Local anesthesia will be administered to numb the wrist. This will help to ensure your comfort throughout the procedure.
Step 2: Incision
A small incision is made in the wrist using a single-portal or two-portal technique. For the single-portal approach, one tiny tube contains both the camera and cutting tool.
Step 3: Endoscope Insertion
The endoscope is gently guided through the incision. It’s done carefully and with precise control to ensure minimal disruption to the surrounding tissues.
Step 4: Visualizing the Wrist
The camera on the endoscope will help provide a clear view of the structures within the wrist, including the transverse carpal ligament. This allows for a comprehensive and detailed examination of the area.
Step 5: Ligament Cutting
Using specialized miniature medical tools, the surgeon carefully cuts the transverse carpal ligament. This release of the ligament eases pressure on the median nerve.
Step 6: Closing the Incision
Once the ligament is cut, the surgeon removes the endoscope. They’ll then close the small incision with sutures or adhesive strips.
If you’re experiencing hand pain, you may find significant relief through this procedure. Endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery offers several benefits, including minimal scarring and less post-operative discomfort.
Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery Recovery Time
Knowing the recovery process is important for patients undergoing endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery. This can vary from person to person. However, there is a general timeline that most patients can expect.
Immediately After Surgery
After the surgery, the hand doctor will bandage the surgical site for 24-48 hours. This will help in wound protection. You need to elevate your hand during this time to reduce swelling and discomfort.
During this period, it’s common to experience some pain, discomfort, and swelling. You may also not be able to move your hand and wrist.
While the doctors may ask you to wear a shoulder sling, you’ll also need to use your hand as normally as possible. This will help promote mobility, reduce stiffness, and prevent swelling. This can start on the day of your operation.
However, don’t bear weight through the hand or grip tightly. It can lead to pain.
First Two Weeks
Follow your surgeon’s guidance regarding wound care, pain medication, and hand elevation. Ensure you keep the surgical site clean and dry. This will help prevent infection.
You can continue to perform hand exercises as recommended by your surgeon or physiotherapist. These exercises will help in your hand’s rehabilitation. Avoid heavy lifting and bearing weight through the hand during this time.
Don’t forget to attend your first follow-up appointment for the removal of stitches or sutures.
Two to Six Weeks
Swelling and discomfort should gradually lessen during this stage of recovery. Continue using your hand as normally as possible. It will help encourage wrist strength and mobility.
Perform hand exercises a few times a day as per the guidance of your healthcare provider. Depending on the nature of your job, you may be able to return to work after four weeks. This is as long as your job doesn’t involve heavy manual labor.
However, seek your doctor’s advice before resuming work.
Six to Twelve Weeks
With the guidance of a healthcare professional, patients with manual jobs can often consider returning to work.
The swelling near the surgical area will continue to decrease. Also, your surgical incision should be healing well. Your hand and wrist strength and mobility should continue to improve as well.
You will need to schedule regular follow-up appointments. Attending these appointments will help you monitor your progress and support a full recovery.
Three to Six Months
At this point, you may notice a significant improvement in hand function. You will also experience relief from carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. You should be able to resume all activities without restrictions.
Ensure you focus on ongoing hand and wrist care. This will help prevent the recurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome and promote long-term hand health.
Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release Recovery Tips
The road to recovery from endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery is a crucial phase in ensuring a full and speedy return to regular activities. Here are a set of recovery tips you should follow to optimize your healing process:
Follow Surgeon’s Instructions
Follow your surgeon’s recommendations concerning wound care, dressings, and medication. To prevent infection, clean and dry your surgical site.
Take prescribed pain medication as directed. It will help you manage post-operative discomfort effectively. If you have concerns, don’t hesitate to consult your healthcare provider.
Elevate Your Hand
Keep your hand above your heart level regularly. It will help reduce swelling and stimulate blood circulation. Use pillows or cushions to support your hand while resting or sleeping.
During the initial recovery phase, refrain from lifting anything heavier than one to two pounds. You can use your hand for light activities like eating and dressing. However, avoid repetitive tasks such as
- Chopping food
- Using a computer mouse or power tools
- Vigorous gripping
As discomfort lessens, you may consider resuming driving within about four days. Keyboarding may be acceptable within ten days. For strenuous use, like going to the gym, recovery may take four to six weeks or even longer.
Gradually resume regular activities based on your surgeon’s guidance.
Balance Rest and Use
After endoscopic CTS, you’re often encouraged to use your hand as normally as possible. However, remember that rest is important in the recovery process.
Take breaks from activities to help reduce inflammation. When your hand or wrist becomes red and swollen, apply a cold pack. To protect your hands when you sleep, avoid putting weight on them.
Wear a Wrist Splint or Compression Garment
Your surgeon may provide a wrist splint or compression garment for you to wear during the early stages of recovery. As a patient, you may get a rigid or a more flexible splint.
A rigid splint aligns your wrists in a neutral position during nighttime use. This reduces pressure on your wrist. A more flexible daytime splint allows for a broader range of movement.
Ensure you follow their recommendations on when and how to use them.
Maintain Good Nutrition
Maintain a nutritious diet to support the healing process. Your diet plays a vital role in supporting the healing process. Here’s why it matters:
- Nutrient-rich foods provide essential building blocks for tissue repair and general recovery
- Proteins help in the regeneration of damaged tissues
- Vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and zinc, help in wound healing and immune function
- A well-balanced diet can reduce the risk of post-surgery complications
- Staying hydrated can help tissue healing
When you prioritize good nutrition, you will enhance your recovery. Additionally, you can promote long-term hand health.
Consider Physical Therapy
Physical therapy is valuable when you’re recovering after the endoscopic surgery. It will help promote smooth gliding of tendons and nerves within the carpal tunnel. This helps in pain reduction and hand coordination.
Best Physical Therapy Exercises for Recovering From Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery
Recovery from carpal tunnel surgery is a vital phase. Adding specific exercises to your routine can help enhance the healing process and restore hand function. Ensure you perform these exercises with the guidance of your healthcare provider.
Here are some of the most effective exercises you can do post-surgery rehabilitation:
Gentle Finger Bends
Individually bend each finger, including your thumb. Hold each position for five seconds. Repeat this exercise ten times to improve finger dexterity and mobility.
Slowly bend your wrist up and down. Ensure you hold each position for five seconds. Perform this exercise ten times to boost wrist flexibility and strength.
Hold your hand in front of you with your palm facing up. Gently glide the tendons back and forth using your other hand. This exercise helps improve tendon flexibility and finger coordination.
Place a light weight in your hand and curl your wrist upwards, then release. Allow the weight to fall back down. Repeat this exercise ten times to enhance wrist strength and endurance.
Extend your arm with your palm facing up. Slowly rotate your hand so that your palm faces down, then back up. With this exercise, you can improve forearm flexibility and supination-pronation movement.
Hold your hand in front of you with your fingers close together. Gently spread your fingers apart, then release, allowing them to return together. Do this exercise ten times to boost finger abduction and adduction.
Touch the tip of your thumb to the base of each finger on the same hand, moving from the index finger to the pinky. Repeat this exercise ten times to enhance thumb opposition and finger coordination.
Complications That Can Affect Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery Recovery
Endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery is generally safe and effective. However, there are potential complications that can affect the recovery process. Here are some complications that can affect the endoscopic surgery recovery:
Post-operative infection is a possible complication. Regularly inspect your incision as instructed by your surgeon. Warning signs of infection include:
- Unrelieved hand pain
- Bright red blood discharge from the incision
- Foul-smelling discharge from the incision.
- Fever or chills (temperature over 100.4°F or 38°C)
If these signs of infection arise, promptly contact your surgeon.
Incomplete Ligament Release
If the surgeon does not fully release the transverse carpal ligament during the procedure, it can result in incomplete relief from carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
Although rare, there is a risk of nerve injury during the surgery. This can lead to prolonged tingling, weakness, or numbness in the hand.
Reclaim a Pain-Free Future With Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Surgery
This treatment offers effective relief from carpal tunnel syndrome. However, endoscopic carpal tunnel surgery recovery time may vary from person to person.
If you’re ready to bid farewell to the discomfort of carpal tunnel syndrome, look no further than Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas. Our skilled professionals specialize in carpal tunnel surgery. Schedule a consultation now for a brighter, pain-free future!