Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm. The condition occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand — the median nerve — is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist.
In most patients, carpal tunnel syndrome gets worse over time, so early diagnosis and treatment are important. Early on, symptoms can often be relieved with simple measures like wearing a wrist splint or avoiding certain activities.
If pressure on the median nerve continues, however, it can lead to nerve damage and worsening symptoms. To prevent permanent damage, surgery to take pressure off the median nerve may be recommended for some patients.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may include:
Numbness, tingling, burning, and pain—primarily in the thumb and index, middle, and ring fingers
Occasional shock-like sensations that radiate to the thumb and index, middle, and ring fingers
Pain or tingling that may travel up the forearm toward the shoulder
Weakness and clumsiness in the hand—this may make it difficult to perform fine movements such as buttoning your clothes
Dropping things—due to weakness, numbness, or a loss of proprioception (awareness of where your hand is in space)