Will surgery on the wrist really fix a wrist problem?

Carpal tunnel. Scary words. Everyone knows what it means at this point. But do you know what carpal tunnel surgery means? If you think it means sure-fire relief, you’re partially right, and mostly wrong.

Check out the abstract of this study on carpal tunnel surgery in the Journal of Hand Surgery (Volume 20, Issue 4, Long Term Results of Carpal Tunnel Release, Nancollas et al. ):

…the average time to maximum improvement of symptoms was 9.8 months. However, 30% reported poor to fair strength and long-term scar discomfort, and 57% noted a return of some pre-operative symptoms, most commonly pain, beginning an average of 2 years after surgery.

So let’s flesh that out.  It takes almost 10 months to feel your best after the surgery (time you’re resting, rehabbing, taking a break from work).  You have a 1 in 3 chance that you’ll not ever regain full strength.  And, here’s the kicker: the symptoms that cause you to get surgery have BETTER than a 1 in 2 chance of coming back in the few years following the surgery.

If you’re considering carpal tunnel surgery, those facts should give you pause.  If the symptoms come back (and boy do they!), perhaps there’s something wrong with the rationale for doing the surgery in the first place?


About the Author

Matt Hsu is a trainer and orthopedic massage therapist. He fought a long battle with chronic pain all over his body and won. He blends the principles he learned in his journey, empirical observations with clients, and relevant research to help others get their lives back.