Carpal/Cubital Tunnel

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Johanna R. Krebiehl

Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

Meet Our Specialist

Dr. Krebiehl is a native to Michigan. She graduated with honors from Wayne State University in 2006. She continued on to medical school at…

What is Carpal/Cubital Tunnel?

Are you experiencing consistent numbness or pain in your wrist or elbow? If so, you may have carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel. These conditions are similar but affect different areas of the body.

Carpal Tunnel

This occurs when the median nerve, which runs from your forearm to your wrist and hand, becomes compressed. This nerve passes through a pathway called the carpal tunnel. When this tunnel becomes inflamed or injured, symptoms occur. This condition is often caused by overuse of the wrist, such as typing on a computer, or from an injury.

Cubital Tunnel

Generally, cubital tunnel is caused by the compression of the ulnar nerve at the elbow. This nerve passes through the cubital tunnel. When this tunnel is inflamed or injured, you can experience symptoms. This condition is often caused by overuse of the elbow.

Common signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pain
  • Weak grip
  • Tendency to drop things

Who can Benefit from Treatment?

Individuals who are experiencing any of the above symptoms or have pain or discomfort that affects their daily activities should contact a doctor for treatment. At Plastic Surgery Associates, Dr. Krebiehl, our highly trained hand surgeon and plastic surgeon, will meet with you during your consultation to discuss your symptoms and medical history to determine which treatment is right for you.

Treatment Options

There are a number of treatment options available depending on the stage of your carpal or cubital tunnel syndrome and your symptoms.

Splinting: If your condition is diagnosed early, wrist or elbow splinting can help to keep your hand or arm still while your sleep to relieve tingling or numbness.

NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen may be able to help reduce swelling to lessen pain and discomfort.

Corticosteroids: A corticosteroid injection into the carpal or cubital tunnel may help to relieve pain due to inflammation and swelling.

Surgery: If your symptoms are severe or other treatments are not helpful, surgery may be necessary. The goal of surgery is to relieve pressure by cutting the ligament that is pressing on the affected nerve.

Carpal/Cubital Tunnel Recovery

If you have undergone surgery for your condition, the healing process may take several months as the ligament tissues gradually grow back together. Soreness or weakness may occur but will resolve with time. In cases where symptoms were very severe, they may not completely go away after surgery.

How long does it take to recover from carpal tunnel surgery?

Recovery from carpal tunnel surgery can take several weeks to several months, depending on how long the nerve was compressed prior to surgery. Recovery involves splinting the wrist, as well as physical therapy to strengthen the wrist and hand.

Is carpal tunnel release a major surgery?

Carpal tunnel release is considered minor surgery, but still requires patients to comply with postoperative restrictions for the best outcome.

How painful is carpal tunnel surgery?

As with any surgical procedure, patients can expect to experience swelling, discomfort, and stiffness afterward. Soreness may persist anywhere from a week to a few months and is managed by pain medications, physical therapy, and appropriate use of the hand postoperatively.

What can you not do after carpal tunnel surgery?

For at least two weeks following carpal tunnel surgery, you should avoid lifting anything heavier than about two pounds. You should also avoid repeated arm or hand movements such as typing, vacuuming, using power tools, using a computer mouse, etc. Be sure to wait until your surgeon clears you to resume normal use of your hand.

Can I use my hand after carpal tunnel surgery?

Grip and hand strength usually return within 2-3 months of surgery; however, it can take up to a year to fully recover. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions regarding how much you can use your hand following surgery.

Is cubital tunnel release a major surgery?

Cubital tunnel release surgery is considered a major outpatient surgery. Complications are minimized by compliance with post-operative instructions.

How long does cubital tunnel release surgery take?

Cubital tunnel release surgery usually takes less than one hour to complete.

What can I expect after cubital tunnel surgery?

Following cubital tunnel surgery, you can expect discomfort, swelling, and stiffness. Most patients can return to light work within a few days, but it may take 6-8 weeks to return to more physical work.

How long is recovery from cubital tunnel surgery?

Recovery from cubital tunnel surgery can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. Your surgeon will discuss your expected postoperative course with you prior to surgery.

Are you in a cast after cubital tunnel surgery?

Patients are placed in a splint after surgery which remains in place until their post-operative appointment. At that time, they are typically placed in a custom removable splint or brace.

Carpal Tunnel Testimonial

Lia's Story

“From consultation to aftercare – hands down- the best experience I could have asked for. My nurse, Kim, made my early morning nerves calm and was so caring. Dr. Krebiehl was so supportive and understanding.”

Patient reviews

State of the art Surgical Facility

Our operating facility is conveniently located on the sixth floor of the Exhibitor’s Building adjacent to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our surgical facility is accredited by the AAAHC, or the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, Inc. This association is committed to improving quality care provided to patients by reviewing standards, performance, and safety of our facility.

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Contact Us Today

Are you bothered by wrist or elbow pain? If so, contact Plastic Surgery Associates today to schedule an evaluation of your hand and/or arm. We aim to provide prompt and effective treatment to each of our patients.

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