Affecting more than 12 million people, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm. It occurs when the median nerve, one of the major nerves in the hand, is compressed as it travels through the carpal tunnel in the wrist.
Carpal tunnel syndrome may be treated surgically through a procedure called carpal tunnel release, which relieves pressure on the median nerve by cutting the transverse carpal ligament. Traditional carpal tunnel release procedures can remedy the condition.
Doctors used to think that carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by an overuse injury or a repetitive motion performed by the wrist or hand, often at work. They now know that it’s most likely a congenital predisposition (something that runs in families) – some people simply have smaller carpal tunnels than others. Carpal tunnel syndrome can also be caused by injuries, such as a sprain or fracture, or repetitive use of a vibrating tool. It’s also been linked to pregnancy, diabetes, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The median nerve and tendons that allow your fingers to move pass through a narrow passageway in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is formed by the wrist bones on the bottom and the transverse carpal ligament across the top (or inside) of the wrist. When this part of the body is injured or tight, swelling of the tissues within the tunnel can press on the median nerve. This causes numbness and tingling of the hand, pain, and loss of function if not treated. Symptoms usually start slowly and may get worse over time. They tend to be worse on the thumb side of the hand.