You’re not the only one that started feeling the same symptoms even after a surgery. Surgery does a good job of cleaning out that area, but it doesn’t address the underlying reason why it got all clumped up in the first place. I’ll back up a bit…
So, everyone has a carpal tunnel. The carpal bones (fancy name for bones at the base of your hand) are lined up and shaped such that they leave an opening in the shape of a tunnel for the tendons and nerves and blood vessels to travel through to your hand. There is a sheath that lays across this tunnel that holds everything in place, (so that your tendons don’t pop up and out when you bend your wrist). This sheath can get thickened when there’s repetitive strain, because repetition over and over again can cause inflammation. That inflammation settles into the fibers of the sheath and hardens and thickens it. The muscles around the tunnel – like the meaty part of your thumb, and your forearm muscles – can squoosh that tunnel together if the muscles are chronically too tight. (Those muscles often tighten up when people use their hands all day – it might be using heavy duty tools, or resting them on the desk using a keyboard and mouse all day- but it results in the same thing.) Muscles that are used but not equally stretched will just start forming into the position that they are kept in all day. And then when we call upon one of those muscles to contract to lift or do something strenuous (even opening a cap on a water bottle) they contract and strain the joints at a different angle than they were designed to do. Because the position isn’t quite correct, perhaps a neighboring muscle steps up to help and do a job that isn’t its own ….but then gets overworked. The muscle whose job it’s SUPPOSED to be now doesn’t have anything to do (because the neighbor is helping) and now gets weak. Now you’ve got a muscle imbalance in your forearm. And THAT is the layman’s terms version of how even light activities can cause repetitive strain!
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (the tingling, pain, weakness in your fingers) is felt when the nerve that passes through that tunnel gets pinched. The nerve study test they do (which is a bit painful) can determine how fast the electric signal passes through the tunnel, thus giving them an idea of how pinched off things are down there. The carpal tunnel release surgery goes in there and loosens and cleans out the sheathes and scar tissue. I think of it like a comb going through and clearing out and smoothing things out. Then, following up with physical therapy is important so that you can loosen the tight and overworked muscles (the meaty thumb and forearm) that started the problem in the first place. Strengthening the muscles around the wrist is important, not just to regain function, but so that the muscles are all working together in balance so that they don’t recreate that squashing of the carpal tunnel.
So, that you’ve got this problem coming back again again surgery- worse than before – isn’t that the surgery failed necessarily, but perhaps that your forearms/wrist/hand didn’t abandon the movement dysfunction.
SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Stretch like crazy – meaning, often. Think of that hardened/thickened sheath at your wrist and massage it (your opposite thumb does a good job). Do a very specific wrist and light strengthening routine that includes muscles in all directions. If you want some specific direction on the program, here’s a little video I made a couple years ago for my online viewers. Those 2 stretches in the free tips video are a good place to start, but to completely rid yourself of the pain, tingling, numbness, dropsy, and dysfunction (whether you’ve had surgery or are desperately trying to avoid it!) you’ll also have to add in the strengthening. Here’s everything you need….