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NINDS Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Information Page

Condensed from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet

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What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition caused by compression of a key nerve in the wrist.   It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist.  Symptoms usually start gradually, with  pain, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist, radiating up the arm.  As symptoms worsen, people might feel tingling during the day, and decreased grip strength may make it difficult to form a fist, grasp small objects, or perform other manual tasks.  In some cases no direct cause of the syndrome can be identified.   Most likely the disorder is due to a congenital predisposition - the carpal tunnel is simply smaller in some people than in others.  The risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome is especially common in those who preform repetitive work tasks, such as assembly line work. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also associated with pregnancy and diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disease, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Is there any treatment?

Initial treatment generally involves resting the affected hand and wrist for at least 2 weeks, avoiding activities that may worsen symptoms, and immobilizing the wrist in a splint to avoid further damage from twisting or bending. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, other nonprescription pain relievers, and oral steroids (prednisone) may ease pain. Steroid injections can also be used to alleviate the swelling and pressure on the median nerve. For more severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, open carpal tunnel release surgery or endoscopic carpal tunnel release may be recommended.

What is the prognosis?

In general, carpal tunnel syndrome responds well to treatment, with the majority of patients recovering completely.  To prevent workplace-related carpal tunnel syndrome, workers can do on-the-job conditioning, perform stretching exercises, take frequent rest breaks, wear splints to keep wrists straight, and use correct posture and wrist position. Wearing fingerless gloves can help keep hands warm and flexible.

What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts research on nerve-related conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome in its laboratories at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and also supports research through grants to major medical institutions across the country.  Current studies include several randomized clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of educational interventions in reducing the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome. Another clinical study is collecting data about carpal tunnel syndrome among construction apprentices to better understand specific work factors associated with the disorder and develop strategies to prevent its occurrence among construction and other workers.  Scientists are also investigating the use of alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, to prevent and treat this disorder.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Clinical Trials

Organizations

Column1 Column2
American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA)
P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA   95677-0850
ACPA@theacpa.org
http://www.theacpa.org
Tel: 916-632-0922 800-533-3231
Fax: 916-652-8190

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Dr., Rm. 4C02 MSC 2350
Bethesda, MD   20892-2350
NIAMSinfo@mail.nih.gov
http://www.niams.nih.gov
Tel: 301-496-8190 877-22-NIAMS (226-4267)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
1600 Clifton Road, N.E.
Atlanta, GA   30333
inquiry@cdc.gov
http://www.cdc.gov
Tel: 800-311-3435 404-639-3311/404-639-3543

Occupational Safety & Health Administration
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC   20210
http://www.osha.gov
Tel: 800-321-OSHA (-6742)

Related NINDS Publications and Information
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Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892



NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated April 16, 2014