Carpal Tunnel Syndrome



CTS is caused by pressure in the carpal tunnel. This is the passage that the nerve uses as it goes from the wrist into the hand. The cause of this pressure is not always known. It can be due to:

  • An injury to the wrist
  • Problems in the way the carpal tunnel, bones, tendons, muscles, or ligaments look or work
  • Blood vessel problems
  • Swelling
  • Tumors
  • Long term health problems, such as obesity, heart failure, or osteoarthritis

Risk Factors

CTS is more common in women and adults over 50 years of age. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Obesity
  • Doing repetitive things with the hands, such as:
    • Some sports
    • Sewing
    • Playing musical instruments
    • Typing
    • Assembly tasks
  • Menopause
  • Using workplace tools that vibrate, such as a jackhammer



CTS may be in one or both hands or wrists. These issues may get worse over time:

  • Numbness, tingling, or swelling
  • Pain that goes from the wrist to the shoulder
  • Pain that gets better with hand or wrist shaking
  • Loss of grip strength
  • Weakness


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done, looking closely at the arms, wrists, and hands. The doctor may ask about tasks done at work.

Pictures may be taken of the nerve area. This can be done with an ultrasound.



The goal of treatment is to ease pressure on the carpal tunnel. Making simple changes at work and home can help, such as using ergonomic tools to decrease stress on the wrist.

Other options may be:

Initial Care

Initial care may include:

  • Supportive care, such as resting the area and using cold packs
  • Wearing a hand splint
  • Physical therapy to promote strength and range of motion


Medicine may be given to ease pain. Steroids may also be injected into the carpal tunnel to ease swelling.


Some people may need surgery if initial care and medicine does not help or symptoms are severe. Carpal tunnel release cuts the transverse carpal ligament and releases pressure on the nerve.


There are no known methods to lower the risk of CTS.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.