Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Hand numbness and tingling is a common condition that affects people of all ages. It often occurs from compression of a nerve near the neck or somewhere in the hand and arm. Patients with compression of a nerve often complain of:

  • Pain that wakes them at night
  • Difficulty holding a telephone to their ear
  • Worsening of symptoms when driving

Where to begin?
Evaluation of a patient with the above symptoms begins with a careful physical exam. Often, additional tests are needed to more accurately diagnose the exact cause of the pain and numbness. This may include specialized studies to evaluate the nerves in the hand and arm. Common causes of nerve compression include carpal tunnel syndrome (nerve compression at the wrist) and cubital tunnel syndrome (nerve compression at the elbow).

A variety of treatment options exist for treating carpal and cubital tunnel syndromes. These can range from
wearing splints at night to modifying activities and work spaces and in some cases, steroid injections. When
these measures fail, surgery may give substantial relief to patients with persistent symptoms. The need for
and timing of surgery is tailored to each patient, but evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon is an important
first step to establish the diagnosis and hopefully improve quality of life.

Author: David Brogan, MD, MSc
Hand and Microsurgery