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Dr. Benjamin J. Jacobs, an orthopaedic surgeon, answers your questions about carpal tunnel syndrome.
Q: What is the carpal tunnel?
A: It is an actual tunnel made from the bones in your wrist and a tough ligament. The carpal tunnel nerve (median nerve) and several tendons run through the carpal tunnel. The thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger get their sensibility from the carpal tunnel nerve.
Q: What does carpal tunnel syndrome feel like?
A: It varies on the person. The most common feelings people tell me about carpal tunnel syndrome are numbness, tingling, pain, weakness, and clumsiness (frequently dropping things, difficulty with buttons or needle work). The numbness or tingling most often takes place in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. Very commonly, people wake at night or in the morning and have to “shake out” the numbness from their hand.
Q: How does carpal tunnel syndrome happen?
A: Anything that increases pressure on the carpal tunnel nerve can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Often, we don’t ever find out why someone develops carpal tunnel syndrome. Sometimes we see carpal tunnel syndrome in the setting of certain medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid problems, and pregnancy. Often it is not just one thing causing carpal tunnel syndrome, but a combination of factors.