Search Encyclopedia:    
List of Topics Print This Page
 

Carpal tunnel syndrome


Alternative Names:

Median nerve dysfunction; Median nerve entrapment

Symptoms:

Symptoms may include any of the following: 

  • Clumsiness of the hand when gripping objects
  • Numbness or tingling in the thumb and next two or three fingers of one or both hands
  • Numbness or tingling of the palm of the hand
  • Pain that extends to the elbow
  • Pain in the wrist or hand in one or both hands
  • Problems with fine finger movements (coordination) in one or both hands
  • Wasting away of the muscle under the thumb (in advanced or long-term cases)
  • Weak grip or difficulty carrying bags (a common complaint)
  • Weakness in one or both hands
Exams and Tests:

During a physical exam, your health care provider may find:

  • Numbness in the palm, thumb, index finger, middle finger, and thumb side of your ring finger
  • Weak hand grip
  • Tapping over the median nerve at your wrist may cause pain to shoot from your wrist to your hand (this is called the Tinel sign)
  • Bending your wrist forward all the way for 60 seconds will usually result in numbness, tingling, or weakness (this is called the Phalen test)

Tests that may be ordered include:

Outlook (Prognosis):

Symptoms often improve without surgery. But more than half of cases eventually need surgery. Even if surgery is successful, full healing can take months.

Possible Complications:

If the condition is treated properly, there are usually no complications. If untreated, the nerve can be damaged, causing permanent weakness, numbness, and tingling.

When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call for an appointment with your provider if:

  • You have symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Your symptoms do not respond to regular treatment, such as rest and anti-inflammatory drugs, or if there seems to be a loss of muscle bulk around your fingers
  • Your fingers lose more and more feeling
Prevention:

Use tools and equipment that are properly designed to reduce the risk of wrist injury.

Ergonomic aids, such as split keyboards, keyboard trays, typing pads, and wrist braces, may be used to improve wrist posture during typing. Take frequent breaks when typing and always stop if you feel tingling or pain.

References:

Calandruccio JH. Carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar tunnel syndrome, and stenosing tenosynovitis. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 76.

Zhao M, Burke DT. Median neuropathy (carpal tunnel syndrome). In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 36.


Review Date: 5/9/2015
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

   View History
  Carpal tunnel syndrome

   
   

 

About UPHS   Contact Us   Site Map   Privacy Statement   Legal Disclaimer   Terms of Use

The University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia, PA 1-800-789-PENN © 2016, The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania