Hand and Wrist
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a progressively painful hand and arm condition caused by a pinched nerve in your wrist. A number of factors can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome, including the anatomy of your wrist, certain underlying health problems and possibly patterns of hand use.
Bound by bones and ligaments, the carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway - about as big around as your thumb - located on the palm side of your wrist. This tunnel protects a main nerve to your hand and nine tendons that bend your fingers. Compression of the nerve produces the numbness, pain and, eventually, hand weakness that characterize carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome typically starts gradually with a vague aching in your wrist that can extend to your hand or forearm.
- Tingling or numbness in your fingers or hand, especially your thumb and index, middle or ring fingers, but not your little finger. This sensation often occurs while holding a steering wheel, phone or newspaper or just after waking up. Many people "shake out" their hands to try to relieve their symptoms. As the disorder progresses, the numb feeling may become constant.
- Pain radiating or extending from your wrist up your arm to your shoulder or down into your palm or fingers, especially after forceful or repetitive use. This usually occurs on the palm side of your forearm.
- A sense of weakness in your hands and a tendency to drop objects.