Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve disorder of the hand, caused by compression of the median nerve. The median nerve gets squeezed inside a narrow passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This nerve provides feeling to the thumb, index and middle fingers and half of the ring finger.

The narrowing may be caused by:

  • Injury
  • Genetics
  • Overuse and repetition
  • Hormone-related conditions
  • Tumors (rare)

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes symptoms in one or both hands or wrists. Symptoms may include:

  • Tingling, burning or numbness, especially in your thumb and index or middle fingers
  • Pain or numbness that worsens with:
    • Wrist, hand or finger movement
    • Sleep (symptoms may wake you)
  • Hand stiffness or cramping that gets better after:
    • Shaking your hand
    • Waking up in the morning
  • Weakness or clumsiness of your hand:
    • Loss of grip strength
    • Difficulty making a fist
    • Frequently dropping things
  • Pain that moves up your arm

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor will look for signs of nerve irritation or damage.

Other tests may include:

  • Electrodiagnostic exam 
  • MRI scan 
  • X-ray 
  • Ultrasound

Listen to Bobby Chhabra, MD, discuss how you can find relief in this podcast about carpal tunnel syndrome.

Simple Adjustments

Sometimes making simple changes in your workplace or home may help relieve symptoms. You might also benefit from pain relievers or cortisone injections. 

Wrist Splint

A splint prevents extreme movements of the wrist. It's most effective when worn at night. It can help you avoid waking up with symptoms.

Surgery

If you have severe symptoms, you may need carpal tunnel release.

 

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.