What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
syndrome is numbness, tingling, weakness, and other problems in your hand because of pressure
median nerve in your wrist.
nerve and several
tendons run from your forearm to your hand through a
small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel . The median nerve controls
feeling in your thumb and first three fingers (not
your little finger).
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome. This pressure can come from
swelling or anything that makes the carpal tunnel smaller. Many things can cause this swelling, including:
- Illnesses such as
rheumatoid arthritis, and
the same hand movements over and over, especially if the wrist is bent down
(your hands lower than your wrists), or making the same wrist movements over
What are the symptoms?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can
cause tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in the fingers or hand. Some people
may have pain in their arm between their hand and their elbow.
Symptoms most often occur in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and
half of the ring finger. If you have problems with your other fingers but your
little finger is fine, this may be a sign that you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
A different nerve gives feeling to the little finger.
first notice symptoms at night. You may be able to get relief by shaking your
How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask if you have any
health problems—such as arthritis, hypothyroidism, or diabetes—or if you are
pregnant. He or she will ask if you recently hurt your wrist, arm, or neck.
Your doctor will want to know about your daily routine and any recent
activities that could have hurt your wrist.
During the exam, your
doctor will check the feeling, strength, and appearance of your neck,
shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands. Your doctor may suggest
tests, such as blood tests or nerve tests.
How is it treated?
Mild symptoms usually can be
treated with home care. You can:
- Stop activities that cause numbness and pain.
Rest your wrist longer between activities.
- Ice your wrist for 10 to
15 minutes 1 or 2 times an hour.
- Try taking
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to
relieve pain and reduce swelling.
- Wear a wrist splint at night. This takes pressure off your median
The sooner you start treatment, the better your chances
of stopping symptoms and preventing long-term damage to the nerve.
may need medicine for carpal tunnel syndrome or for a health problem that made
you likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome.
Surgery is an option.
But it's usually used only when symptoms are so bad that you can't work or do
other things even after several weeks to months of other treatment.
How can you keep carpal tunnel syndrome from coming back?
To keep carpal tunnel syndrome from coming back, take care of
your basic health. Stay at a healthy weight. Don't smoke. Exercise to stay
strong and flexible. If you have a long-term health problem, such as arthritis
or diabetes, follow your doctor's advice for keeping your condition under
You can also try to take good care of your wrists and
- Try to keep your wrist in a neutral
- Use your whole hand—not just your fingers—to hold
- When you type, keep your wrists straight, with your hands
a little higher than your wrists. Relax your shoulders when your arms are at
- If you can, switch hands often when you repeat
Frequently Asked Questions