Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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People with carpal tunnel syndrome have more treatment options than in the past. Duke hand and wrist specialists in Durham and Raleigh use a variety of nonsurgical and minimally invasive techniques to relieve your symptoms and return full movement to your hand. Our reputation for success in treating carpal tunnel syndrome brings hundreds of people to us for treatment each year.

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About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, pain, and/or weakness in your hand, particularly in your thumb and first few fingers. 

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in your wrist where nerves and tendons pass through to your hand. If your tendons or tissues become swollen, they compress the median nerve -- the nerve that runs from your forearm into the palm of your hand -- causing carpal tunnel syndrome. You’re more likely to get the condition if you have relatively small carpal tunnels. It can also occur due to a traumatic injury, swollen tendons, fluid retention from pregnancy, or after surgery. People with thyroid issues, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes also have an increased risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. 

When to Seek Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you have tried rest and altering your daily activities, but symptoms persist and interrupt sleep or your daily routine, it may be time to see a hand and wrist specialist. It’s important not to wait too long to get care; carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to permanent numbness and weakness in the hand if left untreated.

Duke Orthopaedic Clinics

Our hand and wrist specialists see patients at Duke Orthopaedic clinics throughout the Triangle. Find one near you. In-person and virtual appointments are available.

Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Your Duke hand and wrist specialist will perform a physical exam to rule out other wrist conditions with similar symptoms. They may also use tests such as electrodiagnostic studies, which measure electrical activity generated by muscles and nerves, or ultrasound to confirm your diagnosis.

Nonsurgical Treatments

Whenever possible, our hand and wrist specialists use nonsurgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome. These may include a wrist brace or splint, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), or steroid injections.

Occupational Therapy

Our hand and wrist care team includes occupational therapists who specialize in treating hand, wrist, and elbow conditions. If you have surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome, you may also work with our occupational therapists to help achieve maximum recovery. 

Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome involves cutting the ligament that forms part of the carpal tunnel. This creates a gap that eventually heals with scar tissue, providing a larger space and relieving pressure on the nerve. Where possible, our surgeons perform minimally invasive surgery, which uses very small incisions and tiny instruments to release the carpal tunnel. These procedures are used more commonly than open surgery and result in a quicker recovery, with less pain and scarring.

Why Choose Duke

We Treat the Full Range of Hand and Wrist Conditions
Many people come to Duke from other parts of the country for our expert sports-injury care. This includes injuries in amateur and professional athletes of all ages. We often help people who come to us after treatment at other centers has failed. 

Advanced Care from Skilled Experts
Our hand and wrist surgeons are skilled in the most advanced surgical techniques for repairing injuries, correcting deformities, and restoring function. This includes wrist fusion and wrist replacement surgeries. Whenever possible, our surgeons offer minimally invasive procedures, which can reduce your healing time.

Specially Trained Hand Therapists
Occupational therapists who specialize in hand and wrist conditions are located right in our clinics. They provide customized therapy to help you recover from surgery as quickly as possible -- or avoid it altogether.

We’re Innovators and Teachers
Our hand and wrist specialists have developed new treatment techniques and devices that are now used across the country. They’re also teachers who train the next generation of orthopaedic specialists in complex surgical procedures.

Best Orthopaedic Hospital in North Carolina

Where you receive your care matters. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our orthopaedics program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

This page was medically reviewed on 03/03/2023 by