A close-up shot of a woman's hands as she knits with bright yellow yarn

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Treating carpal tunnel syndrome for long-lasting relief

Carpal tunnel syndrome is an uncomfortable hand and wrist condition that can make it hard to perform daily tasks like buttoning a shirt, writing or even holding a coffee cup. The carpal tunnel is a small space where the median nerve and nine tendons pass from the forearm into the hand. Swelling from an injury or an illness can cause the carpal tunnel to narrow, pinching the median nerve. This can cause numbness, pain, tingling and muscle weakness.

If carpal tunnel syndrome is causing you pain while you work, play or go about your daily routine, our hand specialists can help. At TRIA, our team is made of leading orthopedists, board-certified hand therapists, hand surgeons and other experts who treat hundreds of carpal tunnel cases a year.

We’re the only orthopedic practice in the Twin Cities that has an integrative medicine program to manage wrist and hand pain. And with other innovative treatments like hand therapy, orthobiologics and outpatient treatment, including carpal tunnel release, we’ll help you get long-term relief from wrist pain.

"I am so happy that I went to TRIA to get my carpal tunnel fixed. It was the best decision I could have made for me and my family. The care was outstanding and I would/have recommended it to family and friends. Thanks for making this go so smoothly."

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

Each person will experience carpal tunnel syndrome differently, but here are some common carpal tunnel symptoms to watch for:

  • Decreased sensation or numbness in the palm or fingers when doing certain activities like typing, holding a phone or brushing your hair
  • Tingling, burning, pain or a feeling of “pins and needles” in the half of the palm closest to the thumb and index, middle and ring fingers
  • Waking up at night due to numbness or pain in the hand or fingers
  • Pain radiating from the forearm into the hand
  • Decreased hand strength and mobility
  • Feeling clumsy or dropping things

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it might be time to make an appointment with an orthopedic hand specialist.

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

Inflammation – the most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome – can cause swelling, which can make the carpal tunnel narrow, putting pressure on the median nerve. Inflammation is typically caused by another health condition like a wrist injury, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or high blood pressure.

Many things can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, including how you position your wrist and hands while using the computer, prolonged or repetitive vibrations from using power tools, and repetitive movements of the wrist or fingers like playing the piano or knitting.

Overextending and overusing the wrist can make nerve compression or swelling worse. It’s also possible to have more narrow carpal tunnels naturally, which can make it more likely for the median nerve to become compressed.

Keep in mind that we don’t need to determine the specific cause of your carpal tunnel syndrome in order to treat it. Our expert hand specialists will use the most effective treatments based on your symptoms and lifestyle to help you recover.

Treating carpal tunnel syndrome

No matter how long you’ve struggled with carpal tunnel, our orthopedists can help. There are many different types of treatments that can relieve or even eliminate symptoms of carpal tunnel. Common treatments we use are:

Wrist splints

A splint acts as a brace to support the joint and limit stress placed on it. This can help reduce swelling in the carpal tunnel and lessen pressure on the median nerve. Wearing a wrist splint at night can prevent the wrist from bending while sleeping. We might also recommend wearing a splint during repetitive daily activities, like typing or using tools. Our board-certified hand therapists can custom fit a splint for the affected wrist.

Corticosteroid injections

Corticosteroids are an anti-inflammatory medication that we may recommend as part of your treatment plan. The medication is injected into your wrist and should help reduce swelling around the median nerve, relieving pain and easing numbness.

Hand therapy

Our specialized hand therapists will work closely with hand surgeons and other orthopedic specialists at TRIA to design an individualized treatment plan for you.

Hand therapy programs can include a combination of targeted hand exercises, activity modification, ergonomics, patient education and other specialized treatments. We’ll teach you how to protect your wrist while typing, using power tools and doing other activities on a regular basis.

Orthobiologics

TRIA is at the forefront of orthobiologics, leading the way in the research, education and use of this emerging treatment. In some cases, orthobiologics can be used to treat carpal tunnel syndrome as an alternative to surgery.

Orthobiologic treatments use substances naturally found in the body, including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, to reduce swelling from inflammation and heal the wrist. If you’re a good candidate for orthobiologic treatment, our hand specialists will talk with you about what to expect and why it’s a good fit for you.

Carpal tunnel release surgery

Some cases of carpal tunnel are best treated with carpal tunnel release surgery. This is a minimally invasive procedure and is one of the most common surgeries our hand surgeons perform.

During carpal tunnel release surgery, we’ll surgically divide the ligament that creates the carpal tunnel. This will make more room for the median nerve and relieve pressure.

Carpal tunnel release surgeries are outpatient procedures typically performed in our clinics. This means that you won’t go under general anesthesia and you can leave the clinic the same day. This is often more affordable and can save you a lot of time.

When you arrive, we’ll use local anesthetic to numb your hand and wrist so you’ll be comfortable during the procedure. Carpal tunnel release surgery usually takes no longer than 15 minutes, and most of our patients are finished with their appointment in about an hour.

Specialty treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome

We are the only orthopedic practice that has an integrative medicine program  to manage hand and wrist pain. Integrative medicine uses holistic treatments that are scientifically proven to help reduce pain and promote healing, like acupuncture, massage, health education and others.

Integrative medicine can be used to complement your treatment program, or after carpal tunnel release surgery to help you recover.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

No, you don’t need a referral to see an orthopedist at TRIA. You can make an appointment with a hand specialist online or walk in to orthopedic urgent care for same-day help.

Many cases of carpal tunnel can be diagnosed by discussing your symptoms and physically examining your wrist and hand. In some cases, we might need to use an X-ray or other imaging to rule out other conditions and confirm it’s carpal tunnel syndrome.

We may also test your median nerve function with an electromyography (EMG) test. This test measures how the muscles in your hand and wrist respond to stimulation from the nerve.

No matter how complex your hand or wrist condition is, our team of expert orthopedists will give you a diagnosis and guide you toward the best treatment for you.

Some mild cases of carpal tunnel can heal with rest. But for some, resting would mean time away from work or other daily activities that are had to avoid.

If you notice any symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, consider making an appointment with one of our hand specialists. The earlier we start working together to treat your carpal tunnel, the more treatment options may work for you.

Carpal tunnel symptoms usually come on slowly. Most people notice some numbness or tingling while holding their wrists in certain positions, such as while driving or talking on the phone. Waking up with numbness or tingling in the hand is also a common early symptom.

If you notice these symptoms, it’s probably time to talk to a doctor.

The only way to know if you need surgery to treat your carpal tunnel syndrome is to visit a hand surgeon. Our hand surgeons will talk with you about your symptoms and determine if surgery is the most effective treatment for you. Many cases of carpal tunnel can be helped with nonsurgical treatment options like splints or hand therapy. At TRIA, we’ll never guide you toward surgery unless it’s the most effective treatment for you. But if surgery is needed, we’ll answer your questions and make sure you are prepared for the procedure and recovery.

In most cases, we perform outpatient carpal tunnel release surgery in our clinics. This is often a more comfortable and affordable option for patients.

We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, Medicare Advantage, PreferredOne and many others.

You can check with your insurance to see if your plan covers part or all of the services needed. Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.

Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are member services numbers to help you get started: