Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve is compressed as it passes from the hand to the wrist through the carpal tunnel, a narrow and rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand.

Patients in the Boston area diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome can find comprehensive treatment options, including access to a Boston hand surgeon, at the Hand and Upper Extremity Service at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH). Surgical treatment can also be provided by BWH plastic surgeons in the Department of Plastic Surgery.

Causes and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome may be caused by a wide variety of factors, including frequent and repetitive movements, joint or bone disease, hormonal or metabolic changes, and other conditions or injuries to the wrist.

Because the median nerve provides sensory and motor functions to the thumb and three middle fingers, patients with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience pain, weakness, numbness, burning and tingling sensations, and other symptoms.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is typically diagnosed using electrodiagnostic tests that involve stimulation of muscles and nerves in the hand.

Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome at BWH

Physicians in the Hand and Upper Extremity Service, part of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at BWH, provide a variety of treatment options for patients experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, including:

  • Carpal tunnel surgery to relieve pressure on the median nerve by cutting the ligament that is pressing on it. Surgery may involve an open incision in the palm of the hand over the carpal tunnel, or minimally invasive surgery using endoscopic tools inserted through one or two small incisions in the hand or wrist. Under local anesthesia, endoscopic surgery may be performed in as little as 10 minutes.
  • Splinting of the hand to minimize wrist movement and compression of the nerves inside the tunnel.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication taken orally or injected into the carpal tunnel space to reduce swelling.
  • Ergonomic changes to the patient's work space, such as changing the position of the hand at a computer keyboard.

Patients requiring surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome may also consult a surgeon in the Division of Plastic Surgery about options for reconstructive hand surgery. A number of plastic surgeons at BWH have specializations in hand-related reconstructive procedures, and for patients suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, they can help to improve functionality and flexibility, as well as appearance.

Additional treatment available through the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

In addition to treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome and other diseases and injuries to the hand and upper extremity, the Department Orthopaedic Surgery at BWH provides diagnosis and treatment of orthopaedic diseases and injuries to the musculoskeletal system. Patients may find a world-class Boston knee surgeon, consult with a surgeon about hip replacement surgery, or see a sports medicine physician about sports related injuries and conditions.

Learn more now about the comprehensive medical services available at available at BWH. In addition to orthopaedics, Brigham and Women's Hospital offers services in cardiology, cancer treatment, women's health, weight loss surgery including lap band surgery and much more. Use our physician directory to find a specialist in any of these areas, at locations across the Boston area.

Learn more about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other Orthopaedic Conditions at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH