You're working at your desk, trying to ignore the tingling or numbness you've had for some time in your hand and wrist. Suddenly, a sharp, piercing pain shoots through the wrist and up your arm. Just a passing cramp? It could be carpal tunnel syndrome.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually. As they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.
Often, the cause is having a smaller carpal tunnel than other people do. Other causes include performing assembly line work, wrist injury, or swelling due to certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Women are three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent permanent nerve damage. Your doctor diagnoses carpal tunnel syndrome with a physical exam and special nerve tests. Treatment includes resting your hand, splints, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines, and sometimes surgery.
NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) Also in Spanish
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (American College of Rheumatology)
- Finger Numbness: Could It Be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
Treatments and Therapies
- About Hand Surgery (American Society for Surgery of the Hand)
- Carpal Tunnel Exercises: Can They Relieve Symptoms? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Carpal tunnel repair - slideshow (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Hand Surgery Anesthesia (American Society for Surgery of the Hand)
- Joint and Soft Tissue Injections (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Wrist Surgery: Arthroscopy (American Society for Surgery of the Hand)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: MedlinePlus Genetics (National Library of Medicine)
- Hereditary neuropathy with liability to pressure palsies: MedlinePlus Genetics (National Library of Medicine)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Occupational cold exposure and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome - a...
- Article: Comparison of Two Manual Therapy Programs, including Tendon Gliding Exercises as...
- Article: A systematic review: normative reference values of the median nerve cross-sectional...
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- American Society for Surgery of the Hand
- Find a Hand Surgeon (American Society for Surgery of the Hand)
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Also in Spanish