Carpal tunnel syndrome

Person with carpal tunnel syndrome

​The carpal tunnel is a tunnel inside the wrist, formed by the transverse carpal ligament on the bottom of the wrist and the carpal bones on the top. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which provides both sensory and motor function to the thumb, index, middle and half of the ring finger, is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel. This nerve compression causes numbness, tingling and pain. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome typically occurs in adults and is common in both men and women. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome risks and causes

Risk factors that increase your chance of developing carpal tunnel syndrome include: 

  • Medical problems such as diabetes or thyroid disorders

  • Family history (immediate family member with carpal tunnel syndrome)

  • Frequent/repetitive hand or wrist movements (such as keyboarding)

  • Frequent/repetitive gripping movements (found in many sports)

  • Hormonal changes (such as pregnancy or menopause)

  • Injuries to the hand or wrist (a sprain or dislocation) 

  • Joint or bone disease (including many types of arthritis)

  • Metabolic changes (such as thyroid issues) 

Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms 

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • A feeling of “pins and needles” in the fingers and/or thumbs 

  • Burning/tingling in the fingers

  • Hand weakness when gripping objects 

  • Numbness and/or pain in one or both hands 

  • Sleep interrupted by hand pain or numbness

  • Swollen or swollen feeling in fingers and/or thumbs

Carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosis  

Specialists at The Christ Hospital Health Network diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome by reviewing your symptoms and health history, and then conducting a physical exam.  Other tests may be performed, including electrodiagnostic testing (measures the electrical activity of muscles and nerves) is the most effective way to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. These include:

  • Nerve conduction test - assesses how fast an electric signal travels along a nerve or from the nerve to a muscle in the hand. 

  • Electromyogram - measures how well the muscle around the nerves of the hand works.

Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment 

Your doctor considers multiple factors when determining a treatment plan for your carpal tunnel syndrome, including your age, current pain level and the success of previous treatments, procedures or therapies. 

The most common treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication—can be taken orally or injected to help reduce swelling of the carpal tunnel area. 

  • Ergonomic changes—these simple, yet effective, approaches, such as changing the position of your work keyboard or computer, can help to reduce symptoms. 

  • Exercise—supervised by a physical or occupational therapist, hand stretching and strengthening exercises can be beneficial for carpal tunnel symptom relief. 

  • Hand splinting—helps to immobilize the wrist and ease nerve compression inside the carpal tunnel area. 

  • Surgery—carpal tunnel release surgery, very common in the U.S., relieves nerve compression in the carpal tunnel area.

Orthopedic specialists at The Christ Hospital Health Network are among the most experienced and skilled doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Find a hand and wrist specialist near you.