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Do you have pain, numbness or tingling to your thumb and fingers?
Do you feel clumsy when you hold things?
Do you notice weakness when you grip?
If you say yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed in the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm side of the wrist formed by the carpal bones of the hand through which the median nerve passes. The median nerve supplies feeling and movement to the thumb and first three fingers and when compressed, can cause numbness, tingling and weakness to this area.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Problems that compress the tunnel may cause carpal tunnel syndrome. These include:

  • Fractures
  • Dislocations
  • Swelling
  • Repetitive movements
  • Static positions with wrist in full flexion (bent forward) or full extension (cocked back)
  • Vibration through the wrist such as jackhammering

Who is at Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Those with certain conditions have an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. They include:

  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Peripheral neuropathy (weakness, numbness and pain from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet)
  • Alcoholism
  • Kidney disease
  • Hypothyroidism

Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Modify activities to prevent compression to the carpal tunnel
  • Change keyboard so wrists are in a neutral position
  • Avoid excessive compression to the wrist and palm when using keyboard
  • Avoid excessive vibration to hands
  • Minimize forceful gripping
  • Use wide handled grips
  • Wear padded work gloves
  • Use a wrist splint during the day and/or night to keep wrist neutral
  • Use ice to reduce inflammation and pain

When to Seek Professional Help

Addressing carpal tunnel when it first begins with the suggestions above increases your chances for success. Seeking out a physical therapist or physician may be necessary if want a professional opinion or you are not making progress. It has been shown that if your symptoms have been present for 3 months, the chances of conservative care being effective greatly diminish and surgical options may be necessary to rid the problem.