Ask the Sports Doc: Carpal tunnel

Published 5:00 pm Monday, November 2, 2009

GH asks: I am a 54-year-old male diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. My right hand goes numb after playing golf. My family doctor sent me to a neurologist for a nerve conduction study. After the study I was diagnosed with moderate to severe carpal tunnel syndrome. I have not tried any conservative treatments and was wondering what my options are.

Dr. Patel writes: Carpal tunnel is a very common problem among individuals between the age of 50 and 70. The median nerve supplies sensation to the thumb, index, and middle finger primarily. If the nerve gets compressed by the wrist, the fingers described can go numb. The numbness can be worse at night and can also cause weakness of the muscles of the hand. If severe enough, muscle wasting can also occur.

Conservative treatment options include a cortisone injection in the wrist and even a wrist splint for night time. The injection can help decrease the inflammation of the nerve. If the injection helps for a while then your symptoms recur, then surgery is likely to have a better result.

The surgical option involves release of the carpal ligament. The surgery usually takes less than 10 minutes and patients rarely have to undergo any general anesthesia. I perform the surgery with some gentle sedation and local numbing medication during the surgery. The risk of the surgery is minor. Most patients have no restrictions after the first 2-3 weeks.