Compression of the Median Nerve

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway made of ligament and bone located in your wrist at the base of your hand. It houses the median nerve, which runs from your forearm into your palm and supplies sensation to your middle and index fingers, your thumb and half your ring finger.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that occurs when swelling and inflammation narrow the space inside your carpel tunnel and cause compression and pinching of your median nerve.

The cause of carpal tunnel syndrome cannot always be identified, but repeated use or injury is typically a contributing factor. Women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Children are not usually affected.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome tend to start slowly, causing minor numbness in your fingers and hand. They are often first noticed at night.

As the condition progresses, symptoms worsen and may include:

  • Frequent numbness, tingling or pain in your thumb or first three fingers
  • Burning and pain that spreads up your arm
  • Muscle weakness in your hand
  • Wrist pain at night that interrupts your sleep
  • Difficulty grasping objects or maintaining your hold
  • Inability to complete tasks that require precise motions, like buttoning your shirt

Diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome begins with a detailed examination of your wrist, shoulder, neck and hand to determine any causes of nerve pressure.

Additional testing may include:

  • X-rays
  • Nerve conduction tests to measure nerve impulses and control
  • Phalen test to assess hand strength
  • Tinel’s sign to evaluate tingling in your fingers

Physical therapy and lifestyle changes can often alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome and eliminate symptoms. When carpal tunnel surgery is required, it has a very high success rate.

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