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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The Neuroscience Institute at Virginia Mason in Seattle provides surgical and non-surgical treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is characterized by numbness or tingling on the palm side of the thumb and fingers. The wrist may ache, with pain spreading to the fingers and the forearm.

As CTS progresses, numbness may worsen, and pinch and grip strength may weaken.

What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is a canal in the wrist, surrounded by the wrist bone and the transverse carpal ligament. CTS results when pressure on the nerve increases within the confined space of the canal.

CTS may be caused by repetitive pinch and grip activities, as well as arthritis, diabetes, hormone imbalance, pregnancy and wrist fractures. It is unusual for CTS to be caused solely by keyboard and mouse use.

How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome treated?

For early, mild or occasional symptoms, heavy or repetitive gripping and repeated extremes of wrist flexion and extension are minimized.

Often, a night-time wrist splint will alleviate symptoms, by preventing the wrist from flexing overnight. In some cases, an injection of corticosteroids into the carpal tunnel may be beneficial for temporary relief of symptoms.

For more advanced stages of CTS, surgical treatment is recommended. In this procedure, the transverse carpal ligament is divided, creating more room in the carpal tunnel and relieving pressure on the median nerve. This is an outpatient procedure.