Carpal Tunnel Syndrome | Symptoms & Treatments | MedStar Health
A doctor examines the wrist of a patient experiencing hand pain.

The carpal tunnel is a space in the wrist where a nerve and nine tendons pass from the forearm into the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a type of hand nerve entrapment that occurs when swelling in the tunnel compresses the median nerve.

Carpal Tunnel

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During repetitive hand motions, like typing, the tendons in the carpal tunnel become irritated - causing swelling and inflammation.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

As a result of the pressure on the median nerve, patients with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience symptoms including:

  • Hand pain and finger pain, including burning, tingling, and numbness
  • Hand pain or wrist pain, extending to the elbow
  • Sensation that the hand is swollen, even if it is not
  • Weakened grip and difficulty picking up small items
  • Problems with fine finger movements in one or both hands
  • Numbness in hands

This condition is common in people who perform repetitive wrist and hand motions, such as typing on a computer keyboard. It also affects those who grip tightly or uses their wrists consistently, such as cashiers, cyclists, meat cutters, and musicians.

Treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome

Many nonsurgical courses of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome are available, such as

  • Splints or braces to immobilize and rest the wrist
  • Adjustments to how you perform daily activities
  • Oral anti-inflammatory medications
  • Steroid injections

If nonsurgical treatment is not successful in resolving your hand pain or treatment is sought too late, surgery may be required. This surgery involves enlarging the carpal tunnel, which will relieve the swelling and pressure on the nerve.