Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Pinched Nerve)

Carpal tunnel syndrome at a glance

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful hand and wrist condition caused by a compressed nerve in the wrist.
  • CTS is caused by the median nerve becoming compressed against the carpal tunnel, the bone structure in the wrist that allows the nerve to run from the forearm through the wrist and into the hand.
  • Symptoms may include tingling, radiating pain, numbness, or weakness in the forearm, wrist, hand or fingers.
  • Treatment for carpal tunnel includes rest, anti-inflammatory medicine, splinting the wrist, corticosteroid injections, or surgery.

Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the median nerve, which passes from the forearm to the hand through the carpal tunnel (the bones in the wrist), becoming pinched or compressed.

The median nerve runs through the carpal tunnel alongside several tendons that move the fingers. When these tendons become inflamed or another irritation or obstruction is present in the carpal tunnel, the median nerve can become pinched between the obstruction and the bones of the carpal tunnel.

Several conditions can cause carpal tunnel syndrome, including diabetes, thyroid disorders, pregnancy, menopause, and arthritis.

Injuries, such as wrist fractures, and repetitive stress to the wrist, such as using a keyboard or computer mouse, can also cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel symptoms include pain in the wrist and forearm, and tingling, radiating pain, or numbness in the palm side of the hand and fingers, caused by the compression on the median nerve which controls feeling in these areas. Symptoms worsen the longer the nerve is pinched, and may include weakness in the hand or wrist.

If left untreated, the median nerve can become permanently damaged, resulting in increased weakness and muscle loss in the hand, as well as loss of coordination and sensation in the fingers.

Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome

Treatment for mild carpal tunnel syndrome includes rest, cold compresses, anti-inflammatory medicine, splinting the wrist, occupational therapy or ergonomic evaluation and changes. Anti-inflammatory corticosteroid injections can also provide temporary relief of pressure on the nerve. Be sure to talk to your pharmacist before purchasing anti-inflammatories as these medications may be contraindicated as they may interact with other medications and medical conditions.

If symptoms do not improve with this treatment, outpatient carpal tunnel release surgery to decompress the carpal tunnel is usually necessary to permanently relieve carpal tunnel symptoms and restore functionality.

If you have wrist pain or symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, contact us to schedule an appointment with our hand and wrist orthopedic specialists to learn more about your treatment options.