About This Condition
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition characterized by pain, tingling, and numbness in the fingers and hand, sometimes radiating up into the elbow.
The painful sensations of CTS are caused by compression of the median nerve in the tunnel of bones in the wrist. In many cases, the condition results from long-term repetitive motions of the hands and wrists, such as from computer use. Although repetitive motion is often a culprit, it does not explain the frequent occurrence of CTS with non-motion-related conditions, such as pregnancy.
Symptoms of CTS include recurrent numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain in one or both hands in a characteristic location defined by the median nerve, which is compressed as it passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Symptoms are usually worse at night and after prolonged use of the hands. Some people may experience clumsiness in handling objects, with a tendency to drop things, and may also have a decreased ability to feel hot and cold.
Splints are often recommended to immobilize the wrist, theoretically protecting it from repetitive motion injury. A physical therapy program of hand- and wrist-strengthening exercises, combined with the use of a wrist brace, is sometimes recommended. In more advanced cases, a surgical procedure called a “release” may be necessary. The procedure separates the ligaments covering the carpal tunnel in the wrist, which relieves painful pressure on the median nerve.