For many people, dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome doesn't require surgery. You can try many nonsurgical treatments. However, nonsurgical treatments aren't always adequate. Here are the situations in which you may need surgical treatment for your carpal tunnel syndrome.

If You Have Severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

For some people, carpal tunnel syndrome can skip past the initial stages and go straight to severe. Some others may let their carpal tunnel go untreated for so long their symptoms become severe by the time they seek help. In these cases, you may want to go straight to a surgical approach.

When do symptoms become severe?

Carpal tunnel symptoms progress gradually. Symptoms may come and go during the early stages. Over time, they will become more frequent, to the point they're almost always there. At that point, you can assume your symptoms have crossed over into severe. There's a few of them to watch out for.

  • Numbness or tingling in the hand or individual fingers
  • Burning or pain in the hand or individual fingers
  • Pain when performing small movements or activities with the fingers
  • A loss of proprioception

If any of your symptoms affect your quality of life, then you can consider them severe. For example, if you're having trouble sleeping because of constant pain, then you may want to consider surgery.

If You Have Nerve Damage

At a basic level, carpal tunnel syndrome indicates a pinched nerve, specifically the median nerve. However, your carpal tunnel symptoms can come from outright nerve damage, rather than just a pinch. When there's nerve damage, there's more of a need for surgery to try to repair the damage.

If Nonsurgical Methods Show No Results

You should consider hand surgery if nonsurgical methods just aren't working for you. Keep in mind nonsurgical carpal tunnel treatments don't kick in immediately. You will have to try them for several weeks, or even months, before you can definitively say they're not working.

What are some nonsurgical methods?

Treating carpal tunnel syndrome without surgery can include many different approaches, or combinations of them.

  • Wearing an orthopedic wrist splint
  • Ceasing or changing activities that can lead to symptoms
  • Various types of physical therapy
  • Medication to mitigate the pain from the symptoms

Most people see good results from these methods alone. If they do not help at all, or only marginally, then it's best to speak to a hand surgery specialist about your options. Visit for more information.