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Carpal Tunnel

The problem

  • The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm-side of the wrist through which the median nerve passes
  • Increased pressure in the carpal tunnel can cause median nerve compression, resulting in numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in the hand
  • Increased pressure in the carpal tunnel is often associated with a repetitive use injury. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can also occur secondary to another health condition. It is also possible for the carpal tunnel to be smaller than average.

Interesting facts

  • Women are more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Individuals with a family history of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may have an increased risk for developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can occur more frequently in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, thyroid disorders, or pregnancy

What you can expect/look out for

  • Numbness and/or tingling in the affected hand, especially in the thumb, index, middle or ring fingers, but not in the little finger
  • Pain radiating from the palm-side of the wrist into the hand and arm
  • sense of weakness in the hand or a tendency to drop things
  • Symptoms may occur more frequently when using your hands, especially to grip objects

Hints for self management

  • Avoid aggravating activities
  • Avoid sleeping on your hands/wrists
  • An over the counter wrist splint can help keep the wrist in a neutral position and maintain the maximum amount of space in the carpal tunnel
  • Practice good posture at work and good technique when engaging in activities that involve repetitive movements of the wrist and hand

Management options

  • Wrist splinting
  • A corticosteroid injection may relieve pain and help reduce inflammation in the carpal tunnel
  • Physiotherapy for nerve glides, carpal mobilizations, and an assessment of biomechanics and ergonomics that may be contributing to the condition
  • Surgery, which involves cutting the transverse ligament and relieving the pressure in the carpal tunnel. This approach is usually only taken when conservative measures have failed or when symptoms are more severe

More information

  • The carpal tunnel is formed by carpal bones on three sides with the broad transverse ligament forming the “roof” of the tunnel
  • The median nerve is a mixed nerve. It carries motor signals to some of the muscles in the hand, as well as sensory signals from the thumb, index, middle, and a portion of the ring fingers
  • In addition to the median nerve, nine tendons that function to flex the fingers also pass through the carpal tunnel

At Sydney Sports and Orthopaedic Physiotherapy our highly qualified physiotherapists specialise in the assessment, treatment and prevention of neuromusculoskeletal injuries.

Contact us today – 9252 5770


This handout was prepared by Sydney Sports and Orthopaedic Physiotherapy and is intended as a general information service. Please note that the information provided is not intended as a substitute for advice from a registered physician or healthcare professional. If symptoms persist, please consult your doctor.

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