Because of its' unique complexity and intricacy, hand surgery requires consideration of the entire hand up to the shoulder as an interconnected unit. Whether treating fractures, arthritis, or deformities, a hand surgeon considers the entire hand, wrist, forearm, arm, and shoulder. Our board-certified, fellowship-trained hand specialists treat conditions involving the bones, tendons, and muscles of the hands, wrist, elbow, shoulder, arm and forearm.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

What is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

Symptoms most commonly occur after injury or surgery, but the exact cause is unknown. Other causes include pressure on a nerve, infection, cancer, stroke, or heart attack. One theory is that a "short circuit" in the nervous system causes overactive blood flow and sweat glands in the affected area. It is mostly in the hands, but can occur in the arms, legs and feet.

What are the symptoms?

  • Stage I may last up to 3 months. Burning and increased sensitivity to touch are common. Swelling and joint stiffness follow, along with increased warmth and redness. There may be faster-than-normal nail and hair growth and excessive sweating.
  • Stage II can last 3-12 months. Swelling is constant and skin wrinkles disappear. Skin temperature becomes cooler. Fingernails become brittle. Pain is widespread, stiffness increases, and the area becomes more sensitive to touch.
  • Stage III occurs after 1 year. The skin of the affected area becomes pale, dry, tightly stretched, and shiny. The area is stiff and there is less hope of getting motion back.

What medical tests will I need?

  • X-Rays: to rule out any abnormal bone structures that might be causing your symptoms.
  • MRI: to rule out any abnormal soft tissue structures that might be causing your symptoms
  • Nerve Conduction Study: to show if the nerves are carrying signals normally and the muscles are responding to those signals.

How is it treated?

  • Medications: Anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, anti-depressants, anti-convulsants, opioids, vitamins, and blood pressure medications.
  • Injection Therapy: Injecting a numbing medicine near the affected nerves. This is recommended early in RSD.
  • Biofeedback: : body awareness and relaxation.
  • Therapy: exercise is essential to permanent relief. Physical therapy is important to regain normal use.

What do I need to know about surgery?

  • If nonsurgical treatment fails, there are surgical procedures that may help reduce symptoms.
  • Spinal cord stimulator: Tiny electrodes are implanted along your spine and deliver mild electric impulses to the affected nerves.
  • Pain pump implantation: A small device that delivers pain medication to the spinal cord is implanted near the abdomen.

Brochure: Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy