Innovative Carpal Tunnel Treatment Sends This Teacher Back to School Pain-free

When it comes to being a second grade teacher, working with your hands is part of the job. But for Leticia Ocaña, everyday activities began causing her pain, numbness and tingling.

“My hand would begin to feel numb as I wrote on the board. I couldn’t hold things for long periods of time without experiencing pain,” Ocaña remembers.

This past spring, a doctor diagnosed her with carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s a condition where pressure on the median nerve in the wrist can cause numbness, tingling, weakness and other problems in the hand.  He suggested wearing a brace, but Ocaña didn’t find much relief. She went searching for a more permanent solution. That’s when she found Korsh  Jafarnia, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute-Memorial City and associate professor of Orthopedic Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

“Carpal tunnel is a very common problem that doesn’t always need to be treated with surgery. Sometimes ergonomic adjustments at work or wearing a brace at night can help. For those like Leticia, where that isn’t providing enough relief, there are surgical options,” says Dr. Jafarnia.

Dr. Jafarnia performed an endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery. During the procedure, the physician inserts an endoscope — a small tube with a camera and knife attached — underneath the skin to access and cut the transverse carpal ligament. This releases pressure on the median nerve and relieves the carpal tunnel syndrome.

“We often do surgery on one hand and then wait several weeks for it to recover before performing the procedure on the second hand. This way, a patient isn’t without the use of both hands and can maintain performance of their daily activities,” explains Dr. Jafarnia. “Full recovery takes about six weeks, but most patients get the majority of their hand function back in just one to two weeks.”

Dr. Jafarnia offers these tips to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome from developing or returning:

Ocaña says her recovery is going well and she is excited to be starting the school year without numbness in her hands.

“As an educator, it is very difficult to be absent from your students. They rely on me, and that is too big of a responsibility not to fulfill,” says Ocaña. “Having both surgeries done during the summer was a sacrifice well worth taking!”

Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute offers convenient, specialized care in orthopedics and sports medicine at facilities located throughout the Greater Houston area. Our affiliated specialists  work with people of all ages and abilities to develop individualized and comprehensive treatment programs – from injury prevention and evaluation to orthopedic surgery and post-injury rehabilitation. Find a location near you.

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Tashika Varma