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Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

15 August 2023

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that affects the hand and wrist, causing discomfort, pain, and numbness1.

It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand through a narrow passageway called the carpal tunnel, becomes compressed or squeezed. This compression can result in a range of symptoms that can significantly impact daily life.

Bethany Aitken, clinical services manager at AXA Health, explores the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome

Several factors can contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. These include:

Repetitive hand movements

Engaging in activities that involve repetitive hand movements, such as typing, assembly line work, or playing musical instruments, can increase the risk of developing CTS.

Hand and wrist positioning

Prolonged or repetitive activities that require the hand and wrist to be flexed or extended for extended periods can put pressure on the median nerve, leading to CTS.

Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disorders, can increase the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome2.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

The symptoms of CTS can vary from mild to severe and typically develop gradually over time.

Common symptoms include:

1. Numbness and tingling: Individuals with CTS often experience numbness, tingling, or a pins-and-needles sensation in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. These sensations may extend up the arm and can worsen at night.

2. Hand weakness: CTS can cause weakness in the hand, making it difficult to grip objects or perform tasks that require fine motor skills.

3. Pain and discomfort: Many individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome experience pain or discomfort in the wrist, hand, or forearm. This pain can radiate up the arm or down into the fingers.

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome

Treatment options include3:

1. Rest and modification of sctivities: Giving your hand and wrist adequate rest is crucial in relieving symptoms. Avoid activities that aggravate the condition, and try modifying your work or daily routine to reduce repetitive movements.

2. Splinting: Wearing a wrist splint can help keep the wrist in a neutral position, relieving pressure on the median nerve. Splints are particularly useful at night to prevent symptoms from worsening during sleep.

3. Ergonomic adjustments: Making ergonomic adjustments to your workspace can alleviate stress on the wrists. Ensure that your keyboard, mouse, and other tools are positioned correctly to maintain a neutral wrist position.

4. Stretching and exercises: Engaging in regular stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and reduce tension in the hand and wrist. Consult a physical therapist for appropriate exercises to strengthen the affected area.

5. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation associated with CTS. However, consult a healthcare professional before taking any medication.

6. Cold and heat therapy: Applying cold packs or ice packs to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Alternatively, using heat therapy, such as warm towels or heating pads, can help relax the muscles and improve blood circulation.

7. Steroid injections: In some cases, corticosteroid injections into the carpal tunnel may be recommended to reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms. This treatment is typically performed by a healthcare professional.

8. Surgery: If conservative treatments do not provide relief, or if symptoms are severe, surgery may be considered. Carpal tunnel release surgery involves widening the carpal tunnel to alleviate pressure on the median nerve.

It is essential to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. They can provide personalised advice and guide you through the best options for managing your symptoms effectively.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a debilitating condition, impacting daily activities and overall quality of life. However, with proper treatment and management techniques, people with CTS can find relief from their symptoms and regain functionality in their hands and wrists.


  1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – NHS
  2. Conditions that can cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - NHS
  3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatments - NHS

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