GREENVILLE S.C. (WSPA)– Carpal tunnel syndrome affects as many as 1.9 million people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It results in countless days missed from work for many.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis, we spoke with an orthopedic surgeon about a treatment that can get people back to work in less than a week.

“With a little device, which is right here, we’re actually doing a less invasive technique that involves making just a very small, maybe about three or four-millimeter incision at the wrist instead of in the palm of the hand.”

Dr. Megan Friend, Orthopedic Surgeon, Bon Secours St. Francis

Dr. Megan Friend, an orthopedic surgeon, says carpal tunnel syndrome is very common in the United States.

“It’s compression of a nerve, that’s very important in the hand, called the median nerve. That nerve gives you sensation to the thumb, the index, the middle, and usually half of the ring finger. It gets compressed as it goes through the wrist under a ligament called the transverse carpal ligament,” said Dr. Friend.

Carpal Tunnel can be painful.

“Carpal tunnel syndrome typically produces numbness, tingling, burning, like a pins and needles sensation.”

Dr. Megan Friend, Orthopedic Surgeon, Bon Secours St. Francis

Some are more at risk than others.

“We do see this more commonly in older populations, even starting until like 40 to 60 years of age is when we’re starting to see carpal tunnel syndrome more commonly occur,” said Dr. Friend.

An orthopedic surgeon or your primary care physician can diagnose it.

A lot of times, surgery, is needed for relief. But fear not, the surgical device being used at Bon Secours is tiny.

Dr. Friend says, “We insert this tiny device, it’s very, very small, underneath that ligament and then there are a couple of little balloons which go up and inflate on the sides of that device to again protect the surrounding structures inside the wrist. Then, we have a little knife blade that comes up and will cut the ligament.”

For some, recovery from surgery for a carpal tunnel used to mean weeks away from the job. But now, Dr. Friend says, that’s not the case.

“With this device and this newer technique, patients are not requiring as much pain medication after the surgery. Their recoveries are a whole lot faster as far as getting back to lifestyle-related activities and work-related activities,” said Dr. Friend.

With the cost of living skyrocketing, the ability to return to work, quickly and pain-free– is priceless.

Dr. Friend says that milder cases of carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated non-surgically with things like using braces at night time, nerve gliding exercises, and cortisone injections.

To submit a health topic for our ‘Ask the Expert’ series, click here.