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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Also called: Median nerve entrapment


You're working at your desk, trying to ignore the tingling or numbness you've had for some time in your hand and wrist. Suddenly, a sharp, piercing pain shoots through the wrist and up your arm. Just a passing cramp? It could be carpal tunnel syndrome.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually. As they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.

Often, the cause is having a smaller carpal tunnel than other people do. Other causes include performing assembly line work, wrist injury, or swelling due to certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Women are three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men.

Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent permanent nerve damage. Your doctor diagnoses carpal tunnel syndrome with a physical exam and special nerve tests. Treatment includes resting your hand, splints, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines, and sometimes surgery.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Start Here

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) Also in
  • (American College of Rheumatology)

Diagnosis and Tests

Prevention and Risk Factors

  • (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
  • (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

Treatments and Therapies

  • (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in
  • Carpal tunnel repair - slideshow (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
  • (American Society for Surgery of the Hand)
  • (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in
  • (American Society for Surgery of the Hand)

Living With

  • (American Society for Surgery of the Hand, American Society of Hand Therapists)


  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Library of Medicine)

Videos and Tutorials

  • Video (BroadcastMed) - Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, Greenville, SC, 4/20/2012

Clinical Trials

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Institutes of Health)

Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

Find an Expert

  • (American Society for Surgery of the Hand)
  • From the National Institutes of Health Also in


  • (Nemours Foundation)


  • (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health) Also in

Patient Handouts

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