Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

Published on 19th July 2021


Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition of the wrist where the median nerve is squeezed where it passes through the wrist. The median nerve controls some of the muscles that move the thumb; it also carries information back to the brain about sensations in your thumb and fingers.

When this happens,there can be pain or aching, tingling or numbness in the affected hand. Women are more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome but the condition affects people of all ages. Typing is a common cause. 

It differs to repetitive strain injury which is a injuty to nerves, muscles and tendons. 

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, aching, tingling or numbness in either one, or both, of your hands. onset is gradual over some weeks and the symptoms are usually worse in the thumb, index and middle fingers. it can feel as if your whole hand is affected and you may also experience an ache in your forearm.

The symptoms seem to worsen at night and can disturb sleep.Hanging your hand out of bed or shaking it around will often relieve the pain and tingling.

What treatments are there for carpal tunnel syndrome?

There are many different treatments which can help people with carpal tunnel syndrome. Importantly, if there’s a particular cause for your problem then your symptoms may improve simply by treating this.

Your doctor will advise you which treatments are available. The decision is usually affected by how severe the compression of the nerve is. If it’s severe and your hand muscles are weak, surgery may be necessary.

Simple treatments can alleviate the pain, including:

  • a resting splint for your wrist – particularly if your symptoms are worse at night
  • a working splint – if your symptoms are brought on by particular activities. This should hold your wrist slightly extended (bent back)

An occupational therapist or physiotherapist can advise you about the different types of splint. Some will recommend exercises at the wrist which can help prevent the median nerve adhering to nearby tendons, thereby relieving symptoms.


A steroid injection can be helpful, although the relief may be temporary, it can help to reduce any swelling.


Surgery may be necessary if there’s severe compression of the median nerve or if the numbness and pain doesn’t improve with other treatments. Surgery usually takes place as a day-case and it will take less than a month to recover. The operation can be carried out under a local anaesthetic and usually leaves only a small scar.

This level of information would be more than adequate for the trainee therapist studying our anatomy and physiology course.


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