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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a squeezing of the median nerve at the wrist. This nerve brings feeling to the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

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CTS is caused by pressure in the carpal tunnel. This is the passage that the nerve uses as it goes from the wrist into the hand. The cause of this pressure is not always known. It can be due to:

  • An injury to the wrist
  • Problems in the way the carpal tunnel, bones, tendons, muscles, or ligaments look or work
  • Blood vessel problems
  • Swelling
  • Tumors
  • Long term health problems, such as obesity, heart failure, or osteoarthritis

Risk Factors

CTS is more common in women and adults over 50 years of age. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Obesity
  • Doing repetitive things with the hands, such as:
    • Some sports
    • Sewing
    • Playing musical instruments
    • Typing
    • Assembly tasks
  • Menopause
  • Using workplace tools that vibrate, such as a jackhammer


CTS may be in one or both hands or wrists. These issues may get worse over time:

  • Numbness, tingling, or swelling
  • Pain that goes from the wrist to the shoulder
  • Pain that gets better with hand or wrist shaking
  • Loss of grip strength
  • Weakness


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done, looking closely at the arms, wrists, and hands. The doctor may ask about tasks done at work.

Pictures may be taken of the nerve area. This can be done with an ultrasound.


The goal of treatment is to ease pressure on the carpal tunnel. Making simple changes at work and home can help, such as using ergonomic tools to decrease stress on the wrist.

Other options may be:


There are no known methods to lower the risk of CTS.





  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Clinical Practice Guideline on the Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. AAOS 2016 Feb PDF.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/carpal-tunnel-syndrome.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet.


  • Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.