Overview

Excellent, comprehensive care

Numbness, pain, tingling and weakness in your fingers, hand, wrist or thumb are the most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Your nerves and tendons go through a passageway in your wrist (carpel tunnel) to your hand. If your tendons or tissues become swollen, they can compress a nerve, causing carpal tunnel syndrome.

At UW Health, specially trained doctors, surgeons and certified hand therapists focus on reducing or eliminating your symptoms. We treat your carpal tunnel syndrome by pain management, hand therapy or surgery. Our team works with you to relieve your symptoms and return full movement to your hand.

Making a diagnosis

Pinpoint causes for your symptoms

If you show signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor will examine your wrist and hand and talk with you about your symptoms.

Tests they may use to make a diagnosis include:

An EMG (electromyogram) tests the health of nerves and muscles. Your doctor may order an EMG to see if you need surgery.

An ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of the tissues inside your wrist. Your doctor may use ultrasound to look for swelling of your median nerve.

Treatments

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome

At UW Health, we use a conservative approach to care. When possible, our hand and upper extremity specialists use nonsurgical treatments before recommending surgery.

Nonsurgical treatments

If your symptoms are mild, one or more of these treatments may be the best option for pain management.

  • Ice to reduce swelling

  • Medicine to reduce inflammation

  • Rest to allow for healing

  • Wrist splints to stabilize and support your wrist and hand

Occupational therapy

Our occupational therapists are certified to treat the entire upper extremity including hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder conditions. They teach you new ways to do tasks and change how you move your wrist and hand. If you have surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, our occupational therapists will work with you on your recovery and return to normal activities.

Carpal tunnel surgery

Carpal tunnel surgery involves cutting the ligament that forms part of the carpal tunnel. This creates a space that eventually heals with scar tissue, creating a larger space and relieving pressure on your nerve. You receive local anesthesia to numb the area for this outpatient procedure.

When possible, our surgeons use minimally invasive surgery that includes a small incision (cut) and miniature instruments to release the carpal tunnel. This method is used more commonly than open surgery and gives you less pain and scarring and a quicker recovery.

After surgery, you may need to wear a wrist splint for about a week.

Benefit from hand therapy

Full recovery from carpal tunnel release surgery can take one to two months, depending on your level of activity. Occupational therapy after surgery helps you regain wrist strength. Our certified hand therapists work with your doctor on a plan that reduces your recovery time and gets you back to work and other activities as quickly as possible.

Addressing other health issues

If your carpal tunnel symptoms are caused by other health problems, surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome may give you only a little relief. Treatments for existing health conditions often makes carpal tunnel symptoms get better or go away. Talk with your doctor about managing conditions such as:

  • Diabetes

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Pregnancy

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Prevention

You can prevent carpal tunnel symptoms

Repetitive motion can cause carpal tunnel symptoms. You can make changes to the tools you use at work, the way you sit at your desk or how you use a keyboard to help reduce pain.

  • Avoid leaning on the area where your wrist meets your hand

  • Keep your computer keyboard or other work centered in front of you

  • Do stretching exercises every 20 to 60 minutes

  • Hold your elbows close to your sides

  • Keep your hands and wrists in line with your forearms

  • Take frequent breaks to rest your hand and wrist

  • Use proper hand and wrist position

  • Use wrist splints to relieve symptoms

Meet our team

Care from a team of specialists

Your carpal tunnel care team includes specialists in:

  • Orthopedic hand and upper extremity surgery

  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery

  • Neurosurgery

  • Hand therapy



Locations

Help that's close to home

UW Health provides specialty care for carpal tunnel syndrome at multiple clinics in Madison and Monona. WI.

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  • 1 S. Park Clinic - Hand and Upper Extremity Orthopedic
    • 1 S. Park St. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-0393
    • Closed now
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  • 1 S. Park Clinic - Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation
    • 1 S. Park St. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 890-6170
    • Closed now
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  • UW Health at The American Center - Hand and Upper Extremity Orthopedic
    • 4602 Eastpark Blvd. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-0393
    • Closed now
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  • UW Health at The American Center - Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation
    • 4602 Eastpark Blvd. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 440-6440
    • Closed now
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  • University Hospital - Hand Surgery
    • 600 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-7502
    • Closed now
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  • University Hospital - Orthopedic and Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation Clinic
    • 600 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
    • (608) 263-8060
    • Closed now
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  • Yahara Clinic - Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation Clinic
    • 1050 East Broadway / Monona, WI
    • (608) 890-6110
    • Closed now
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Patient and support services

Connecting you with experts

The hand specialists at UW Health work with you to manage carpal tunnel syndrome. We listen to your concerns and goals for treatment and create a plan for reducing pain and other symptoms.

Referrals

You can get care for carpal tunnel by calling to make an appointment or asking your doctor to make a referral.

For hand therapy, your doctor can provide a written prescription or consultation request to the Hand Rehabilitation Clinic. The request can also be sent by fax to (608) 262-7679.