The main symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) are tingling, numbness and pain in one or both hands. Most cases affect both hands eventually.

The symptoms of CTS most often occur in:

  • the thumb
  • the index finger
  • the middle finger
  • half of the ring finger

However, the tingling and pain can sometimes extend outside this area.

The symptoms of CTS also tend to develop gradually, and usually start off being worse at night or early in the morning.

Any repetitive actions of the hand or wrist can aggravate the symptoms, as can keeping your arm or hand in the same position for a prolonged period of time.

Other symptoms

Other possible symptoms of CTS include:

  • a dull ache and discomfort in the hand, forearm or upper arm
  • a burning, prickling sensation (paraesthesia) in the hand similar to pins and needles
  • dry skin, swelling or changes in the skin colour of the hand
  • becoming less sensitive to touch (hypoaesthesia)
  • weakness and wasting away (atrophy) of the muscles at the base of the thumb

In some cases, you may experience pain that spreads from your hand up to your forearm and elbow.

Using your hands

CTS often affects your dexterity, which is the ability to use your hands effectively to carry out certain tasks. You may find you often drop objects, or have difficulty typing or fastening buttons.

If you think you have might have CTS, this online questionnaire about your symptoms will tell you how likely it is that CTS is the cause.

Page last reviewed: 06/10/2016

Next review due: 06/10/2019