Sudden carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands is also referred to as “acute bilateral” carpal tunnel syndrome.

And yes, this can happen: A person can develop sudden-onset carpel tunnel syndrome affecting both hands in a simultaneous fashion.

Bilateral Acute Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

“Acute carpal tunnel syndrome is typically caused by trauma,” says John-Paul H. Rue, MD, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon with Orthopedics and Joint Replacement at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.

Possible Causes of Trauma
Dr. Rue explains, “This trauma could be from a fracture or dislocation, burns, infection [which may include muscle aching or fever prior to the CTS], bleeding or from a high-pressure type of injection injury.”

Additional Causes of Sudden Carpal Tunnel in Both Hands

“Swelling from fluid retention in the body, such as during pregnancy, can also cause bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.

“Diabetics and people with thyroid conditions are also at higher risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.

“In the absence of trauma, the sudden onset of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome is most likely due to cumulative pressure building up to the point where there is a critical amount of pressure on the median nerve, causing ischemia in the nerve.

“This results in the feeling of pain and numbness associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

“This pressure could be from a variety of conditions, including inflammation of the wrist tendons, and even from tumors or masses within the wrist or on the wrist tendons.”


Don’t panic. A tumor isn’t always malignant. A “mass” isn’t always malignant, either.

One such tumor that can cause carpal tunnel syndrome (though most likely in one hand and not sudden onset) is called a giant lipoma.

This is a mass of fatty soft tissue. It’s benign and cannot turn into cancer. CTS caused by a giant lipoma is very rare.

Other benign CTS-causing tumors are: lipofibromatous hamartoma of the median nerve, flexor tendon sheath lipoma and occult palmar lipoma.

A ganglion cyst can also lead to carpal tunnel, though likely this will not be sudden onset and will only be in one hand.

Dr. Rue specializes in prevention and treatment of sports and exercise injuries. His primary focuses are knee, shoulder and elbow injuries including ACL and cartilage injuries, rotator cuff injuries and overuse tendonitis.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 
Top image; Shutterstock/Angkana Sae-Yang