Carpal tunnel syndrome

Causes | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment
Carpal tunnel syndrome is numbness, tingling and weakness in the hand caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.  The carpal tunnel is a small space in the wrist where the median nerve and tendons run through from the wrist to the hand.  The median nerve controls the movement and feeling in your thumb and first three fingers.  Pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome.


Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed. The median nerve runs from the forearm through a passageway in the wrist to your hand.  This passage way is referred to as the carpal tunnel.  Carpal tunnel is more common in females than in males as the carpal tunnel area is smaller.  The most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome are:

  •  Repeated hand and wrist movements.
  • Broken or dislocated wrist bones, new bone growth from healing injuries, or bone spurs.
  • Work that requires hands be in the same or awkward positions for long periods of time.
  • Some nerve damaging conditions such as diabetes increase the risk of nerve damage.
  • Illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis can affect the tendons in the wrist putting pressure on the median nerve.


Carpal tunnel usually starts gradually and is characterized by numbness and tingling in your thumb, index and middle fingers that comes and goes.  The most common symptoms are:

  •  Numbness & tingling in the hand especially in the thumb, index and middle fingers but does not extend to the little fingers.  Many people “shake out” their hand in order to relieve the symptoms.
  • Weakness in the hand may also be experienced.
  • Aching in the forearm


As with any condition it is important to receive an expert diagnosis so that a proper treatment plan can be put into action.  A thorough medical history and physical exam will be done including examination of the wrists, hands, arms, and neck may be done in order to rule out other conditions.  Diagnostic studies such as X-rays, Ultrasound, MRI or a nerve conduction study may be done to help with proper diagnosis.


The treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome is based on how serious the condition is.  Conservative treatment is usually the first treatment option.  A wrist splint or physical therapy may be recommended. Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may also be recommended.  Other treatment options include acupuncture and chiropractic therapies. Both of these are offered as conservative treatment options at SCU Health System.   Should our doctors find that you need further treatment, we work with a network of trusted surgeons in order to provide the best care possible.

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