Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Guide for Patients

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects the hand and fingers. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the palm, becomes compressed due to inflammation or other causes.

It can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the fingers, especially the thumb, index, and middle fingers. Other symptoms may include weakness in the hand, decreased sense of touch, and difficulty making a fist. Risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome include repetitive motions, obesity, and certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and arthritis. Treatment typically involves rest, splinting, pain relievers, and sometimes surgery.

Looking for information on Carpal tunnel syndrome? This guide covers the symptoms and diagnosis, providing valuable insights for patients and caregivers.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by increased pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel of the wrist. Repetitive movements of the hands and wrists cause it.


  • Tingling, numbness, and burning sensations in the hands and fingers
  •  Pain that radiates from the wrist up into the arm
  •  Weakness, clumsiness, and lack of coordination in the hands
  •  A sensation as if wearing a tight glove or that fingers are swollen, even when they are not
  •  Inability to feel or grip items or dropping items due to fumbling fingers
  •  Loss of strength in the hand or wrist, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
  •  Pain or discomfort when flexing or extending the wrist or gripping objects tightly.
  •  Pain that worsens when holding something
  •  Difficulty making a fist or grasping small objects
  •  Painful sensations that are worse at night

Who is more likely to get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that affects people of all ages and genders but is more common in middle-aged and people who work jobs that require repetitive movements of the wrists and hands, such as typing or assembly-line work. Workers in industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, medical and computer fields are more at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. People who perform activities involving heavy lifting, vibration, and cold exposure may be at further risk.

Causes and Risk Factors

  • Repetitive motions of the wrists and hands  
  • Injury or fracture to the wrist  
  • Prolonged pressure on the median nerve
  • Working with a vibrating tool, such as a jackhammer or drill  
  • Arthritis or other inflammatory joint conditions  
  • Working or performing activities that require contorting or stretching of the wrists and hands 
  • Wearing casts or splints for an extended period of time  
  • Fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause 
  • Having an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, or rheumatoid arthritis  
  • Excessive weight gain or obesity  
  • Family history of carpal tunnel syndrome

How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome diagnosed?

A physical examination and an evaluation of symptoms typically diagnose Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Your doctor may also order lab tests, such as a nerve conduction study, electromyography (EMG), MRI, or X-ray, to help confirm the diagnosis.

Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle modifications, such as ergonomic changes and wrist splints, to help reduce discomfort. In some cases, injecting corticosteroids into the carpal tunnel may help improve symptoms.


  • Ergonomic lifestyle changes are lifestyle modifications that make everyday activities, such as work, more comfortable and reduce the risk of strain or injury. Examples of ergonomic lifestyle changes include adjusting the height of your chair or desk, using a laptop stand or riser, using a lightweight laptop or mobile device, taking regular breaks while sitting at the computer, maintaining correct posture while sitting, standing, and lifting, using ergonomic hand and wrist supports, using correct lifting techniques, and using a keyboard tray to support your arms.
  • Wrist splints are braces or supports designed to immobilize or limit movement in the wrist and hand to help alleviate pain and promote healing. They can be made from various materials such as foam, neoprene, plastic, and aluminium and come in various shapes and sizes. Wrist splints can treat conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, arthritis, and sprains or fractures.

How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome treated?

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Carpal tunnel syndrome can typically be treated with physical or occupational therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. 

  1. Medications such as ibuprofen and corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. 
  2. Physical or occupational therapy can help reduce pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel and improve strength and flexibility in the wrist and hand. 
  3. Lifestyle changes such as wearing a wrist brace, taking frequent breaks from repetitive activities, and avoiding any position or activity that causes pain can help reduce symptoms. 
  4. Surgery is often an option for more severe cases where the symptoms do not respond to other treatments.

Precautions for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome   

  • Take frequent breaks from activities that require repetitive motions, such as typing. 
  • Use ergonomically designed tools, such as those that provide support for your wrists while you type. 
  • Use adjustable chairs or seat cushions that help to maintain good posture.  
  • Take steps to reduce stress and get enough sleep. 
  • Strengthen the muscles of the wrist, hand, and forearm through regular exercise.  
  • Wear a wrist brace to support the wrist and reduce pressure on the median nerve.  
  • Modify your workspace to ensure your wrists remain neutral while typing or using the mouse.  
  • Try to alternate arms whenever possible when performing tasks like using the mouse. 
  • Avoid resting your wrists on hard surfaces while typing or using a mouse.


  • MacDermid, J. C., & Wessel, J. (2004). Clinical diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome: A systematic review. Journal of Hand Therapy17(2), 309-319.
  • Gelberman, R H; Hergenroeder, P T; Hargens, A R; Lundborg, G N; Akeson, W H. The carpal tunnel syndrome. A study of carpal canal pressures.. The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery 63(3):p 380-383, Mar 1981.
  • P. Bland, J. D. (2007). Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. Muscle & Nerve36(2), 167-171.
  • Keith, Michael Warren MD; Masear, Victoria MD; Amadio, Peter C. MD; Andary, Michael MD, MS; Barth, Richard W. MD; Graham, Brent MD; Chung, Kevin MD, MS; Maupin, Kent MD; Watters, William C. III MD; Haralson, Robert H. III MD, MBA; Turkelson, Charles M. PhD; Wies, Janet L. MPH; McGowan, Richard MLS. Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 17(6):p 397-405, June 2009.
  • Scholten RJPM, Mink van der Molen A, Uitdehaag BMJ, Bouter LM, de Vet HCW. Surgical treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD003905. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003905.pub3.
  • Piazzini, D. B., Aprile, I., Ferrara, P. E., Bertolini, C., Tonali, P., Maggi, L., Rabini, A., Piantelli, S., & Padua, L. (2007). A systematic review of conservative treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. Clinical Rehabilitation

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