I also have trouble with carpal tunnel. Also had trouble with tarsal tunnel (feet) and cubital tunnel (elbows). These nerve syndromes can, in fact, be caused by the inflammation associated with RA, Lupus, and other associated connective tissue disease. Once my meds (methotrexate and enbrel) took effect, the nerve problems lessened. They are not gone, but once the inflammation is under control, they do get better. When the carpal tunnel gets worse, I will wear wrist splints for a while (usually at night) and it does help. The only problem is that they are so awkward that I can't really do anything with my hands when I have them on (hence, I don't wear them during the day, typically). I'm fortunate in that my symptoms are relatively mild (except before meds); since your problem is bad enough to require surgery, I would definitely consult with a doctor. Splints may not help you much at this point?
I hope you feel better soon,