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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of carpal tunnel syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in your wrist, through which your median nerve and the tendons to your thumb and fingers pass. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, it means there is pressure on your median nerve. This causes symptoms like numbness or tingling in your thumb and fingers (but not normally your little finger), or the palm of your hand.

You may have pain in your wrist, which can shoot into your fingers, or sometimes up to your elbow. Your muscles might be weak, especially if you have to grip something. Your symptoms may be particularly bad at night, or when doing the same task for a long time, like long-distance driving.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is quite common and affects women more than men. It can happen in one or both wrists.

Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome

carpal tunnel anatomy Anything that causes swelling in the carpal tunnel can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. We do not always know why this swelling happens. But there are some conditions that are linked to carpal tunnel syndrome. They include:

Carpal tunnel syndrome can sometimes happen after forceful or repetitive movements of your wrist or hand. Sometimes, when it has been caused by the tasks you do at work, ACC may cover carpal tunnel syndrome.

Diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome

Specialists sometimes test how your median nerve is working by using nerve conduction studies. They measure how well and how quickly your nerves conduct electrical signals. This can help if it's not obvious that you have carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical directors, Plastic Surgery and Orthopaedic Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed April 2021.


Page reference: 109191

Review key: HICTS-12821