Carpal tunnel syndrome 


Carpal tunnel syndrome animation

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that causes pain, numbness and a burning or tingling sensation in the hand and fingers. Watch this animation and find out what the carpal tunnel is and what causes CTS.

Media last reviewed: 19/11/2012

Next review due: 19/11/2014

Who is affected?

CTS is more common in women than men. 

In the UK, about three in 100 men and five in 100 women experience CTS is their lifetime.

Although CTS becomes more common with age, it can affect people of all ages. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a relatively common condition that causes a tingling sensation, numbness and sometimes pain in the hand and fingers.

Usually, these sensations develop gradually and start off being worse during the night. They tend to affect the thumb, index finger and middle finger.

Other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • pins and needles (paraesthesia)
  • thumb weakness
  • a dull ache in the hand or arm

Read more about the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of one of the nerves that controls sensation and movement in the hands (median nerve).

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in your wrist made up of small bones and a tough band of tissue that acts as a pulley for the tendons that bend the fingers.

It isn't known why the median nerve becomes compressed in most cases, although certain things are thought to increase the risk of CTS developing, such as:

  • a family history of CTS
  • pregnancy up to about 50% of pregnant women develop CTS
  • injuries to the wrist
  • other health conditions, such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis
  • strenuous, repetitive work with the hand

Read more about the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Treating carpal tunnel syndrome

In some cases CTS will disappear without treatment, or simple self-care measures will reduce the symptoms.

CTS in pregnant women often gets better within three months of the baby being born, although it may need treatment. In some women, symptoms can continue for more than a year.

Non-surgical treatments, such as wrist splints and corticosteroid injections, are used to treat mild or moderate symptoms.

Surgery may be required if non-surgical treatments fails to relieve the symptoms. It may also be used if there is a risk of permanent nerve damage.

Read more about treating carpal tunnel syndrome.

Surgery relieves the symptoms of mild CTS immediately. But in those with severe nerve damage, it can take a while to recover or there may not be any improvement.

Depending on which hand was operated on and what your job involves, you will usually be able to return to work within a few weeks of surgery.

Page last reviewed: 18/09/2014

Next review due: 18/09/2016


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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

garage door guy said on 03 November 2014

A couple of years ago (perhaps end of 2012/ start of 2013), the middle two fingers on my right hand started sticking in a closed position when I made a fist in the mornings, whilst stretching after waking, they would release with a very definite flicking action, or sometimes need a little assistance from the fingers on my left hand, to open them out, I think that is what's called "trigger finger"

As the day went on the triggering would ease, and gradually after a while I either got used to it or the symptoms eased.

Around June/July this year, and after a period of not really noticing much wrong with my right hand the same started happening with my left hand.

The triggering or stiffness in my left hand went away recently, but was replaced almost immediately with my left hand being very stiff and painful in the morning to the extent that I could not even squeeze toothpaste from the tube, or tie my shoe laces with out considerable effort and discomfort.

I had been to the doctors over the last year or two several times, with the previous complaints, and been referred to the local Hospital, nothing much has come of the visits, so again recently I arranged an appointment with my local GP surgery, I had to travel to the next village as they were extremely busy, the doctor I saw hadn't seen me before and referred me for an X-ray, I followed up with a call 7 days or so later to be told, the results of the X-ray were normal bone density no breaks or fractures etc, i couldn't actually speak with the doctor the result were discussed with me over the phone by what I understand was just one of the receptionists.

I am now at the point of having very stiff fingers, and very weak grip, a lot of pain, pins and needles and numbness in both hands, near enough all day long.

Do I have carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Can anyone advise me or suggest anything?

I am a manual worker and need my hands.

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LNC said on 15 September 2014

I had Carpal Tunnel Surgery at North Mid Hospital in 2013. Although at the time the nerve conduction test found both my hands were diagnosable with CTS, only my right was symptomatic. I was told any other treatment, given the readings, was a waste of time, and I would need to go directly for surgery.
Everyone in the process was professional and helpful. I won't beat around the bush - getting the anaesthesia in my hand (I was awake for the operation) was very painful - but that didn't last long at all, so just grit your teeth and you can get through it. After that everyone in the operating theatre was friendly and helpful, and afterwards the surgeon (I had a young woman - well she seemed young to me!) and the nursing team, and the post operative team were very caring.
I had a bandage the size of a melon on my hand, which my husband found hilarious, but I was moving my fingers during and after the operation. It wasn't long before I could take the bandages off, and just had a little dressing. I didn't need much medication after the operation, as it wasn't too painful afterwards. My hand has been great ever since. My left hand has recently become symptomatic, and is even more painful than my right hand was, so I know what I have to do, but I also know that afterwards, I will be glad I went and I will feel fine. Surgery is the best option! This time I might ask to be put under, though!

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Alisobn from Toll Bar Doncaster said on 10 April 2014

had the symptoms at different stages in my life now they have all come together at once and boy it hurts

hot flannels to ease the immediate pain works for me until the pain relief kicks in

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