Carpal tunnel syndrome


Carpal tunnel syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway formed by bones and ligaments on the palm-side of the wrist. Tendons from the forearm run through the tunnel and attach into the hand and fingers, along with the median nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is caused by pressure placed on the median nerve, due to a reduction of space within the carpal tunnel. The median nerve is the only nerve that passes through the carpal tunnel and when compressed, can often cause numbness and pain in the hand and forearm, weakness or tingling of the hand, and a lack of dexterity on the radial (thumb) side of the hand.

CTS is common ailment that affects the structures surrounding the wrist and hand, typically caused from repetitive overuse of the nerve and tendons passing through the carpal tunnel, a carpal fracture or dislocation, pregnancy, or other conditions that cause an increase of fluid retention in the body. Tumors, ganglions, cysts and diabetes are also known causes of CTS.

Symptoms of CTS include:

  • A burning sensation in the hand
  • A weakened grip and difficulty holding objects
  • Wrist pain
  • Numbness and tingling in the hand where the median nerve passes (the nerve passing through the thumb, index and middle fingers).
  • These sensations are often worse at night when sleeping.
  • The pain experienced can radiate to the forearm and shoulder.

Who is most commonly affected by CTS:

  • The wrist bones that form the carpal tunnel can be damaged by arthritis of the hand, or by any previous fractures to the wrist.
  • Pregnant women, as hormonal changes in the body may increase fluid retention and compress the nerves in the wrist.
  • Repetitive hand movements (such as constant typing) can trigger the onset of CTS.
  • Patients with diabetes and thyroid conditions generally experience carpal tunnel syndrome.