Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Published January 27, 2023

What is carpal tunnel syndrome? Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition caused by compression of the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand. Injury to the nerve in your wrist can happens when you perform repetitive tasks, such as typing or playing the piano.

carpal tunnel syndrome specialist


While no two people experience carpal tunnel syndrome exactly the same way, there are some common symptoms.

  • Pain, tingling, and numbness in the hand:

    Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include pain, tingling, and numbness around the thumb area and fingers. Your doctor may do tests to find out if there's damage to any nerves in your arms or hands.

  • Pain at night while trying to sleep:

    Pain can be sharp or dull, and usually affects one of the fingers or hand, the wrist and forearm.

  • Weakness in your fingers (which may include a loss of sensation):

    In addition to pain, tingling, and numbness, another symptom includes weakness in different parts of the hand -- especially near where you bend the first metacarpophalangeal joints (MCP J).

  • Tingling or numbness in your thumb, index finger or middle finger:

    Tingling is a symptom that occurs when there's nerve damage to your median nerve (the biggest nerve in your hand). It happens because some small blood vessels have been damaged by pressure from swelling inside your carpal tunnel.


Carpal tunnel syndrome is often caused by overuse or direct trauma to your wrist. Repetitive motion over a period of time can lead to CTS. This includes activities requiring fine-motor skills and grip strength in the hands such as playing a musical instrument, writing, typing, working with hand tools, and playing various sports. Also, an overactive pituitary gland, an under-active thyroid gland, arthritis, and even pregnancy can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. The first step in treating CTS is to address any underlying causes, such as repetitive motions or poor posture. This may involve changing certain activities or modifying the way they are performed.

Treatment Options

There are a lot of treatment options for CTS, but only you can decide what will work best for you. Talk to your doctor about treatment options and how they can help relieve the pain in your wrist and hand.

Non-surgical treatments:

  • Resting the affected hand and wrist

  • Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain

  • Laser therapy to reduce pain and inflammation

  • Steroid injections to reduce inflammation in the carpal tunnel

  • Splints:
    A splint holds your wrist in place while it heals. This allows blood flow to return to the area, which may help ease symptoms such as numbness and tingling in your palm or fingers (in addition to the pain). If left on too long without any activity, however, splints can cause further damage by restricting movement and atrophying muscles more quickly than usual.

  • If a repetitive task causes pain, avoid it until the pain subsides.

Physical therapy: Your doctor may recommend hand therapy, including exercises that strengthen weak muscles around the carpal tunnel and improve the flexibility in the hand and wrist. Exercise and stretching can help reduce the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Surgery: Surgery, such as carpal tunnel release, is sometimes necessary if symptoms don't get better with other non-surgical treatments or do not improve after six months of physical therapy.

If you think you may have carpal tunnel, we can help.

If you think you may have CTS, schedule an appointment with a hand specialist near you. The doctors at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics will be able to diagnose the condition, determine the best course of action for you, and help prevent further injury or other complications.

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