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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nerve disorder of the hand. It is caused by compression of the median nerve. The median nerve gets squeezed inside a narrow passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This nerve provides feeling to the thumb, index and middle fingers, and half the ring finger.
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Carpal tunnel syndrome is created by pressure on the median nerve. This pressure is caused by the carpal tunnel becoming narrower. The narrowing can be caused by many factors, including:
Women and older adults are at greater risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Factors that may increase your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes symptoms in one or both hands or wrists. Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam of your arms, wrists, and hands will be done. The exam will include tests of strength, sensation, and signs of nerve irritation or damage.
Other tests may include:
It is important to correct whatever is causing the carpal tunnel syndrome. Sometimes making simple changes in the workplace or home may help relieve symptoms.
Treatment may also include:
A splint will prevent extreme movements of the wrist. It is most effective when worn at night. It can help avoid waking up at night with symptoms.
The doctor may advise:
Surgery may be needed if symptoms are severe, or continue after trying other treatments. The most common procedure is the carpal tunnel release.
You may reduce your chances of getting carpal tunnel syndrome by:
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
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Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS Last Updated: 9/9/2014