Russ Carson in the pink after hand surgery

No… that’s not a stigmata on Russ Carson’s right hand. The crackerjack banjo picker with Ricky Skaggs is just off a full month of banjo rest following carpal tunnel surgery.

This inflammatory disorder has afflicted a number of banjo players. It arises when the tendons which run through the carpal tunnel in your wrist become enlarged and begin impinging on the median nerve, likewise running down the arm to the fingers. It can be exaggerated by repetitive movements, which is exactly what a banjo picker does with their right hand, especially at the speeds demanded by Kentucky Thunder.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be extremely painful, crippling even for a musician. Steve Dilling also had this surgery some years ago, which typically release the pressure on the nerve by cutting the transverse carpal ligament.

Carson had his surgery in Nashville in mid-February, and says that he is finally back to playing, with no ill effects. He says that he is nearly fully healed and ready to get back on the road.

“The hand is doing much better and I’m glad to be on this side of things. Dr. Staelin was recommended to me by Jerry Douglas, and did a phenomenal job. I’m building back my playing now to rejoin Kentucky Thunder, hopefully on the 15th.”

The pain had become so bad over the winter that Russ figured he had no choice but to get it fixed.

“It got to the point of two fingers going numb during shows, with a lot of pain in the morning. At its worst it would take me two hours in the morning to make a fist and close my right hand.”

But judging from this video he sent, Carson is back in fine form.

Welcome back Russ! I’m sure Ricky and the boys will be glad to have you back in mid-season form.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.