The carpal tunnel is a narrow area located on the palm side of your wrist. The tunnel is formed by the wrist bones and ligaments. Nerves, blood vessels, and tendons pass through the carpal tunnel. Repeated wrist motion or certain diseases may cause swelling within the tunnel. This swelling pinches the main nerve in the wrist (median nerve) and causes the painful hand and arm condition called carpal tunnel syndrome.



  • Repeated wrist motions.
  • Wrist injuries.
  • Certain diseases like arthritis, diabetes, alcoholism, hyperthyroidism, and kidney failure.
  • Obesity.
  • Pregnancy.


  • A "pins and needles" feeling in your fingers or hand, especially in your thumb, index and middle fingers.
  • Tingling or numbness in your fingers or hand.
  • An aching feeling in your entire arm, especially when your wrist and elbow are bent for long periods of time.
  • Wrist pain that goes up your arm to your shoulder.
  • Pain that goes down into your palm or fingers.
  • A weak feeling in your hands.


Your health care provider will take your history and perform a physical exam. An electromyography test may be needed. This test measures electrical signals sent out by your nerves into the muscles. The electrical signals are usually slowed by carpal tunnel syndrome. You may also need X-rays.


Carpal tunnel syndrome may clear up by itself. Your health care provider may recommend a wrist splint or medicine such as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine. Cortisone injections may help. Sometimes, surgery may be needed to free the pinched nerve.


  • Take all medicine as directed by your health care provider. Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your health care provider.
  • If you were given a splint to keep your wrist from bending, wear it as directed. It is important to wear the splint at night. Wear the splint for as long as you have pain or numbness in your hand, arm, or wrist. This may take 1 to 2 months.
  • Rest your wrist from any activity that may be causing your pain. If your symptoms are work-related, you may need to talk to your employer about changing to a job that does not require using your wrist.
  • Put ice on your wrist after long periods of wrist activity.
  • Put ice in a plastic bag.
  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.
  • Leave the ice on for 15-20 minutes, 03-04 times a day.

Keep all follow-up visits as directed by your health care provider. This includes any orthopedic referrals, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. Any delay in getting necessary care could result in a delay or failure of your condition to heal.

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