Dr Emmanuel
Dr Emmanuel
Orthopaedic Surgeon

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What are the most common symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Answer: Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on a nerve (the median nerve) in the wrist. The symptoms include tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain felt in the fingers, thumb, hand, and sometimes into the forearm.

What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Answer: Conditions that may contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome include arthritis, obesity, pregnancy, hypothyroidism and diabetes. Improper or prolonged use of the hands or wrist can also put pressure on the median nerve by causing swelling or thickening of tissues close to or within the carpal tunnel. Prior injuries (especially fractures) to the wrist make a person more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.

Both work and recreational activities can cause carpal tunnel syndrome if done repeatedly over a long period of time.

Some of these activities include:

  • Typing, data entry, use of a computer mouse, or bar code scanning.
  • Use of tools, especially those that vibrate (such as sanders).
  • Prolonged knitting or needlework.
  • Prolonged twisting of the wrist.

How Can Carpal Tunnel be treated?

Answer: Carpal tunnel syndrome in most cases can be treated by avoiding repetitive activities that irritate the wrist. Also, applying ice, wearing a night splint, and taking anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen may provide relief. Strengthening the arms and shoulders may also help. In some cases, surgery may be helpful.

When is Surgery Necessary to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Answer: Most people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are treated without surgery. Surgery is considered only when:

Symptoms have not improved after a long period of nonsurgical treatment. In general, surgery is not considered until after 3 to 12 months of nonsurgical treatment. Evidence of Nerve damage would make surgery more urgent.

Severe symptoms restrict normal daily activities, such as when there is a persistent loss of feeling or coordination in the fingers or hand, no strength in the thumb, or when the patient’s sleep is affected due to the pain.

There is damage to the Median Nerve (shown by nerve test results and loss of hand, thumb, or finger function) or a risk of damage to the nerve.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery is used to reduce the pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. This is done by cutting the ligament that forms the top of the carpal tunnel. Cutting this ligament relieves pressure on the median nerve. Any other tissue (such as a tumor) that may be putting pressure on the median nerve can also be removed during surgery. This is a very simple outpatient procedure and the patient is able to go home the same day.

  • North American Spine Society
  • California Medical Association
  • Spine Arthroplasty Society