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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)

is a condition that causes pressure to build in the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a small area between bones and tissues in your wrist. Swelling in this area puts pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve controls muscles and feeling in the hand.

Common signs and symptoms:

  • Dull, sharp, or shooting pain in your hand
  • Numbness, tingling, or a burning feeling in your thumb, first finger, and middle finger
  • Arm pain that may extend to your shoulder
  • Weakness in your hand
  • Swelling in your hand
  • Not being able to control how your hand moves, or you drop objects

Seek care immediately if:

  • You suddenly lose feeling in your hand or fingers and you cannot move them.
  • Your hand suddenly changes color.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • Your hand and fingers are so weak that you cannot grab, squeeze, or lift items.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


may not be needed. If your symptoms continue or are severe, you may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs may be recommended to decrease swelling and pain. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is right for you and how much to take. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly. If you take blood thinning medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you.
  • Steroid injections may help decrease pain and swelling. Steroid medicine is injected into the carpal tunnel.
  • Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation uses mild electrical impulses to help decrease your wrist pain.
  • Surgery called decompression may be used to take pressure off of the median nerve in your wrist.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Apply ice to your wrist. Ice helps decrease swelling and pain in your wrist. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the ice pack with a towel. Place it on your wrist for 15 to 20 minutes every hour, or as directed.
  • Rest your hands. Let your hands rest for a short time between repetitive motions, such as typing. If you feel pain, stop what you are doing and gently massage your wrist and hand.
  • Get physical and occupational therapy, if directed. Physical therapists will show you ways to exercise and strengthen your wrist. Occupational therapists will show you safe ways to use your wrist while you do your usual activities.
  • Use a wrist splint as directed. A splint will keep your wrist straight or in a slightly bent position. A wrist splint decreases pressure on the median nerve by letting your wrist rest. You may need to wear the splint for up to 8 weeks. You may need to wear it at night.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.