What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common disorder that is often associated with repetitive actions of the hands and wrists, such as typing at a keyboard. Carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to pain, numbness, and sometimes disability of the hands. It is a type of repetitive stress injury and a common occupational injury.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of the compression of the median nerve, which runs through the wrist. The median nerve is located in a narrow channel in the wrist called the carpal tunnel, which is created by bones and a ligament.

The functions of the median nerve are to transmit sensations from the fingers and hands to the spinal cord and control movement of the hand and forearm muscles. The median nerve can be compressed when repetitive activities of the hand and wrist cause swelling and inflammation in the wrist and in the carpal tunnel. The way that this inflammation affects people can vary, but typical symptoms include burning and numbness in the hands.

Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or eliminate symptoms and complications of carpal tunnel syndrome, such as permanent hand numbness and grip weakness. Seek prompt medical care if you have symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, such as burning and numbness in your hands,or pain in your hand, wrist or forearm.


What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

At the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome, symptoms are often vague and develop slowly, but the severity and nature of symptoms can vary between individuals. Symptoms may include:


What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve, which runs through the wrist. Compression of the median nerve can be caused by fluid retention, swelling, or abnormal bone anatomy in the wrist. Specifically, median nerve compression can be caused by such conditions as:

  • Acromegaly (hormonal disorder that leads to bone and cartilage overgrowth)
    Read more about carpal tunnel syndromecauses


How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?

With early recognition and treatment, it is possible to reverse the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome before permanent nerve damage and complications occur. Treatment plans use a multifaceted approach aimed at relieving the compression of the median nerve. Treatment includes:

  • Acupressure and acupuncture, which may help reduce pressure on the median nerve
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves