Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If you’re feeling numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand, consider asking your doctor to check you for carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive-motion injury. It occurs when an important nerve is regularly pinched and compressed. Workers with CTS commonly feel pain, weakness, and tingling, usually in the first three fingers of the hand and the base of the thumb. Symptoms are often most severe during sleep. Serious cases can be disabling.

What Are the Symptoms?

  • You may feel a burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of your hand and thumb, or index and middle fingers.
  • You might first notice that your fingers "fall asleep" and become numb at night. That usually happens in the evening because of the relaxed position of your hand and while sleeping.
  • In the morning, you may wake up with numbness and tingling in your hands that may run all the way to your shoulder.

What Happens in Severe Cases?

As carpal tunnel syndrome becomes more severe, you may have less grip strength because the muscles in your hand shrink. Pain and muscle cramping will also become worse.

The median nerve begins to lose function because of the irritation or pressure around it. This leads to:

  • Slower nerve impulses
  • Loss of feeling in the fingers
  • A loss of strength and coordination, especially the ability to use your thumb to pinch

Incident Rates of CTS Cases

Remember This

  • Carpal Tunnel HandUse tools designed for the job.
  • Use tools that keep your wrist in a neutral position, rather than a forward or backward bend, to minimize force.
  • Rest your hands periodically.
  • Reduce repetition of movement, and vary your arm’s position when performing an activity.
  • Select 2-handled tools with handles that have a spring return and locking position.
  • Wear gloves or use anti-vibration wraps to improve grip strength and lessen the shock of vibrating tools.

Ann’s Story

Ann, a roofer, first noticed symptoms of CTS when her fingers would tingle, and her hand and wrist would begin to feel numb the longer she held a tool. She went to her primary care physician and explained the type of work she performed and the problems she was having holding tools. She did some tests and told Ann that she had CTS.

  • How could her CTS have been prevented?
  • Have you or someone you know ever experienced any pain or discomfort similar to Ann’s? What happened?

You could end up with permanent muscle damage and lose function in your hand. So, don't put off seeing a doctor.