Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

At Rebound, our surgeons and therapists treat many common hand conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is typically characterized by pain, stiffness and numbness in the hand and wrist. It can be brought on by a variety of different activities that involve repetitive use of the hands.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is condition that involves the entrapment and inflammation of nerves and tissues in the wrist and hand. When repetitive movement or overuse causes the flexor tendons in the wrist to swell, pressure is placed on the median nerve, which travels through the carpal tunnel and controls feeling, muscles and movement. The carpal tunnel (a tunnel-shaped structure in the wrist) narrows due to the inflammation, confining the median nerve.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is often associated with professions or activities that require the use of the hands for extended periods of time, particularly repetitive motions. There are other factors that may contribute to the condition as well, and it is important to remember that carpal tunnel syndrome is not necessarily brought on by a single factor, but rather a combination. Here are other factors to consider:

  • Heredity

Bone structure, as with other traits, can be passed along through genes. Carpal bones that are smaller can play a role in developing the condition. “If carpal tunnel syndrome runs in your family, the likelihood of developing it is increased,” says Dr. Doulgas Musgrave, a Rebound surgeon who specializes in disorders of the hands, wrists and arms.

  • Medical History/Conditions

If you suffer from conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or other forms of arthritis, thyroid-related issues or diabetes, you may be more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Age

People of older age have a higher risk of developing the condition.

What Symptoms are Associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

With most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, initial symptoms may insignificant. With time, the symptoms and discomfort progress, making dexterity difficult and subtle movements more painful.

“We see a lot of patients who experience the discomfort associated with carpal tunnel, and it varies from person to person. Some experience a more subtle tingling, and some experience strong, shooting sensation in their hand and arm,” says Dr. Musgrave.

Common symptoms to identify:

  • Hand and wrist pain that leaves a sensation of numbness, burning or tingling
  • Pain that travels throughout the arm and shoulder
  • Shooting pain in thumb, index and middle fingers
  • Weakness in the wrist and hand
  • Difficulty making a fist, making small movements or gripping

How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?

“When addressed in its early stage, carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated without surgery,” says Dr. Musgrave. “Our goal is to always try less invasive measures, unless the condition is severe and is not responding to non-surgical treatment.”

Rebound’s hand experts may explore the following nonsurgical methods for mild to moderate cases of carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • Bracing and splinting
  • Rest and modifying hand use
  • Hand therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Steroid injections

When the condition is severe, non-surgical methods do not provide relief, or there is damage to tissues, nerves or thumb muscles, surgery may be recommended. During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the palm and divides the roof of the carpal tunnel to decrease nerve pressure. When the carpal tunnel heals, the nerve and flexor tendons have more room (preventing inflammation and pain). The procedure can also be performed with a small camera, allowing the surgeon to make the ligament division from within the carpal tunnel.

If you experience the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, consider visiting with our hand experts. Our fellowship-trained surgeons will explain your condition and treatment options, and then work with you to determine a personalized recovery plan.

If you're ready to discuss your carpal tunnel problem with one of our specialty-trained hand and wrist specialists, Edward H. Coale, Jr., M.D., Benjamin Jacobs, M.D., Douglas S. Musgrave, M.D., or Kirk L. Wong, M.D., visit us in Vancouver at our Vancouver, Salmon Creek, or East Vancouver locations. You can request an appointment online or call us at 1-800-REBOUND.


Rebound Resources:

Hand Surgery

Hand Therapy

Other Resources: 

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

American Society for Surgery of the Hand – What’s a Hand Surgeon: Introduction to Hand Surgery

American Society for Surgery of the Hand – Hand and Arm Conditions