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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes weakness, tingling or a numb feeling in your hand.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is also known as median nerve compression. If you have carpal tunnel, it means there is pressure on your median nerve, which controls your hand movements.

This pressure on your median nerve causes the main symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Progressive numbness, tingling and pain in the hand and fingers
  • Weakness and clumsiness in the hand, especially the thumb, which can cause you to drop things
  • Numbness and tingling that runs up into your shoulder
  • Pain that increases at night

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

It’s not always clear what causes carpal tunnel. That being said, some common risk factors and causes include:

  • Repetitive movements that involve your hand and wrist – especially if your hands are lower than your wrists when you do these movements
  • Being pregnant or menopausal
  • Having certain conditions – such as obesity, diabetes, under- or overactive thyroid or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Previously dislocated wrist or wrist fracture
  • Your gender – women are more likely to get it

How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?

Carpal tunnel can clear up by itself. If not, see your doctor. They will ask you about your medical history, including details of any prior injuries to your wrist. They will assess the strength of your hand muscles and feeling in your fingers.

In some instances, your doctor may take an x-ray or MRI scan to try to get a better idea of whether you have carpal tunnel syndrome or another potential condition, like a fracture or arthritis.

You may also be given nerve conduction or electromyography tests to help diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome.

How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?

If your carpal tunnel doesn’t go away by itself, but it’s diagnosed early, your doctor may recommend some (or all) of the following:

  • A wrist splint to wear at night, to help to reduce symptoms
  • Over-the-counter medications – such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Steroid injection in your carpal tunnel, in some cases

If these simple measures don’t help, it’s possible you may need surgery. You will be advised on the surgery that is best for you.  Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery is performed as a day case procedure, usually under local anaesthetic so you can be awake for the surgery.  A small cut is made in the palm of the hand to release the nerve, and the whole operation usually lasts around ten minutes.  It is very effective for relieving pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Mr Rupert Wharton  ›

Mr Rupert Wharton is a Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital, specialising in sports injuries and degenerative conditions of the hand and wrist.

Find your specialist in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading hand specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Mr Graham Lawton  ›
Special interests include:
Mallet finger (+ 5) more
Mr Rupert Wharton  ›
Special interests include:
Trauma & Orthopaedic surgery (+ 10) more

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