Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Risk Factors And Treatment Options


Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve. The carpal tunnel is a tiny aperture on the palm side of the hand that is ringed by bones and ligaments. A compressed median nerve causes weakness, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm.

Repetitive hand movements, medical conditions, and the shape of the wrist can all contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome.

The tingling and numbness are often reduced with appropriate care, and wrist and hand function is recovered.


Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve.

Through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, the median nerve runs from the forearm to the hand. With the exception of the little finger, it gives the thumb and other fingers on the palm side feeling. Additionally, it serves as a motor function by sending nerve impulses to the muscles around the thumb's base.

Anything that compresses or aggravates the median nerve in the carpal tunnel region might cause carpal tunnel syndrome. A fractured wrist and rheumatoid arthritis-related oedema and inflammation can both narrow the carpal tunnel and irritate the nerve.

Carpal tunnel syndrome often has several different causes.

 It is possible that many risk factors work together to cause the progression of the illness.

What to do if you suspect you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If your regular activities or sleep habits are disrupted by carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms and indicators, consult a medical professional. Without therapy, permanent nerve and muscle damage might happen.

Risk Factors

Numerous factors have been connected to carpal tunnel syndrome. Even while they might not be the primary cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, they might make the median nerve more susceptible to irritation or injury. These consist of:

Anatomical aspects. The space within the carpal tunnel may move as a result of a wrist fracture, dislocation, or arthritis that deforms the tiny bones of the wrist and places pressure on the median nerve.

Smaller carpal tunnels might increase the prevalence of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is often more common in women. This could be because carpal tunnel syndrome in women is not as serious as it is in males.

Additionally, women with CTS may have smaller carpal tunnels than those without CTS.

Neurological disorders. The risk of nerve injury, particularly damage to the median nerve, is increased by a number of chronic conditions, including diabetes.

Inflammation-related illnesses. The median nerve may be compressed by rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory illnesses that affect the wrist's lining around the tendons.

Medications. Carpal tunnel syndrome and the usage of the breast cancer medication anastrozole (Arimidex) have been linked in several studies.

Obesity. Carpal tunnel syndrome is more likely to occur in obese people.

Body fluids fluctuate. If fluid retention causes the pressure inside the carpal tunnel to increase, the median nerve may become inflamed. This frequently occurs during menopause and pregnancy. Pregnancy-related carpal tunnel syndrome often gets better on its own after giving birth.

Other health problems. Carpal tunnel syndrome may be more likely in those who have menopause, thyroid issues, renal failure, lymphedema, and other medical concerns.

Occupational factors. Working with vibrating machinery or on a production line that requires prolonged or repetitive wrist flexion might damage the median nerve or aggravate an existing nerve injury. This is especially true if the activity is done in a chilly environment.

However, there is contradicting scientific data, and these elements have not been proven to be the root causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Several researchers have looked into the possibility of a connection between carpal tunnel syndrome and computer use. Some statistics indicate that mouse use, not keyboard use, maybe the problem. 

Despite the fact that it can result in a different type of hand discomfort, there is strong evidence to support frequent computer use as a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome.


Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms and indicators include the following:

  • Feeling tingly or numb. Numbness and tingling in the fingers or hand may be apparent. Normal afflicted fingers include the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers, but not the little finger. In certain fingers, you could experience something like an electric jolt.
  • The wrist may feel the feeling before it moves up the arm. These symptoms may awaken you from sleep and frequently happen when you are holding the phone, newspaper, or steering wheel.
  • Many people "shake out" their hands in an effort to lessen their symptoms. The numbness could last constantly over time.
  • Weakness. You can experience hand tremors and drop objects. This can be due to the weakening of the thumb or the numbness in the hand. The pinching muscles are likewise controlled by the median nerve.


The following methods can lessen stress on the hands and wrists but cannot prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:

Relax your grasp and use less force. Use a light touch while pressing the keys on a keyboard or cash register, for example. For extended handwriting, choose a big pen with a large, comfortable grip adapter and free-flowing ink.

Take quick, regular breaks. Periodically, gently bend and extend your hands and wrists. Change your tasks whenever you can. This is crucial if you work with machinery that vibrates or demands you to apply a lot of power. Even a few minutes can make a difference once an hour.

Observe your shape. Avoid bending your wrist all the way up or all the way down. A calm, central location is ideal. Keep the keyboard at or just below elbow height.

Take better posture. Inappropriate posture causes the shoulders to roll forward, shortening the muscles in the neck and shoulders as well as squeezing the neck's nerves. This might result in neck pain and have an impact on the wrists, fingers, and hands.

Change the mouse you are using. Make sure your wrists are not strained when using the computer mouse.

Warm up your hands. If you operate in a chilly workplace, you run a higher risk of developing hand discomfort and stiffness. Put on fingerless gloves that keep your hands and wrists warm if you have no control over the workplace's temperature.


Start receiving therapy as soon as carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms emerge. Simple things you can do for yourself might solve the issue in its early stages. For instance:

  • Take longer breaks to let your hands unwind
  • Avoid doing things that aggravate your symptoms.
  • Use ice packs to lessen swelling.

There are more treatment options, including surgery, medication, and wrist bracing. If you have only experienced mild to moderate symptoms that come and go for less than 10 months, splinting and other conservative therapies are more likely to be effective. You should visit a doctor if you get numbness in your hands.

Non-surgical treatment

In the event that carpal tunnel syndrome is detected early, nonsurgical treatments, such as:

Bracing the wrist. Keeping your wrist motionless as you sleep might help with tingling and numbness at night. The splint can help prevent symptoms from developing throughout the day even if it is only used at night. Given that it does not require the use of any pharmaceuticals to be successful, nighttime splinting may be a suitable choice if you are expecting it.

NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Carpal tunnel syndrome discomfort may be temporarily reduced by NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, etc.). There is no evidence that these drugs treat carpal tunnel syndrome, though.

Corticosteroids. To ease discomfort, your doctor may administer an injection of a corticosteroid such as cortisone into the carpal tunnel. These injections are occasionally guided by ultrasonography, according to the physician.

Corticosteroids reduce oedema and inflammation, relieving strain on the

central nerve. For treating carpal tunnel syndrome, oral corticosteroids are not thought to be as beneficial as corticosteroid injections.

Treating inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which may be the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, may lessen its symptoms. This has not been proven.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery

If symptoms are severe or do not improve with previous therapies, surgery can be necessary.

Carpal tunnel surgery aims to alleviate pressure on the median nerve by severing the ligament that is obstructing it.

There are two methods for doing the surgery:

Surgery using endoscopes. The endoscope (a device like a telescope with a tiny camera attached to it) is used by your surgeon to see the interior of the carpal tunnel. Your surgeon makes one or more incisions into the ligament two little cuts on the hand or wrist. To guide the tool that slices the ligament, some surgeons may choose to utilise ultrasonography rather than a telescope.

In the days or weeks immediately following surgery, endoscopic surgery may cause less pain than conventional surgery.

An operation performed in the open. In order to release the nerve, your surgeon makes a cut through the ligament and creates an incision in the hand's palm over the carpal tunnel.

Before surgery, talk to your surgeon about the advantages and disadvantages of each procedure. Risk factors for surgery include:

  • Insufficient ligament release
  • Infection of a wound
  • Leaving scars
  • Damage to the blood vessels or the nerves

The ligament tissues progressively grow back together following surgery, making greater space for the nerve as they do so. The inside of the body usually takes much longer to mend than the outside, which heals in a few weeks.

After the ligament has healed, your doctor will usually advise you to gradually return to regular hand usage while first avoiding vigorous hand motions or extreme wrist postures.

Within surgery, soreness or weakness may go away within a few weeks to a few months. If your symptoms were really severe, they might not totally go away following surgery.

Complications of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The median nerve may suffer irreparable damage as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome, leaving the person permanently disabled and impaired. The muscles near the base of the thumb in the palm of the hand may lead to atrophy and become weak because of CTS.

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Page last reviewed: May 25, 2023

Next review due: May 25, 2025

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