Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes tingling, numbness and pain in the wrists and hands. With more than three million new cases every year in the U.S., typing and overuse of the hands are often associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. However, many studies now suggest these are not causes, and genetics are actually believed to play a major role in determining who gets carpal tunnel syndrome. Orthopedic Surgeon Alex Shushan, MD explains the truth about carpal tunnel syndrome.

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is a small space in your wrist. Nerves and tendons run through this space from your forearm to your hand. Anything that decreases the space available for the nerve may cause carpal tunnel syndrome. This may include:

  • Pregnancy.
  • Thyroid issues.
  • Arthritis.
  • Diabetes.

Many cases are “idiopathic,” which means we can’t determine the underlying cause. In these cases, genetics may play a significant role.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include pain, numbness or tingling in your hands or wrists. Most patients experience this first at night, waking up with tingling in the hand that can be “shaken off.” This can progress to daytime numbness and tingling. As the symptoms worsen, patients may have trouble manipulating small objects, such as buttons on a shirt. Symptoms may occur in one or both hands.

Who is most at risk?

People between age 40 and 60 are especially at risk for carpal tunnel. Women are three times more likely to develop the condition.

What about treatment?

Splints at night are often prescribed.

If this does not help, a nerve study is frequently performed to determine the severity of nerve compression. Those who don’t improve after conservative treatments may be candidates for surgery. Surgery is very effective, with more than 500,000 operations performed each year in the U.S. Ninety-eight percent of patients report they have a “good to excellent” result with surgical carpal tunnel release.

Learn how carpal tunnel release surgery provided relief for this local cashier.


shushanAlex Shushan, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand and upper extremity surgery at AAMG Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Specialists.

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