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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)?

Monday, February 27, 2023 - 13:57
Contributors to this article: 

Guy Slowik FRCS

Carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS, is a condition in which one of the major nerves that controls the functioning of the hand and fingers - the median nerve - becomes compressed inside a "tunnel" in the wrist. This can cause various symptoms including pain, numbness, tingling, or a "funny feeling" in the fingers, hand, or wrist.

What Is The Carpal Tunnel?

Carpal comes from carpus, the Latin word for wrist. The carpal tunnel is a small passage inside the wrist. Several fine bones of the wrist form the floor and sides of the tunnel. A ligament called the transverse carpal ligament, which arches over the bones, forms the roof of the tunnel.

Passing through this tunnel are:

  • The median nerve, which conducts impulses, sent by the brain, down the arm and to the fingers
  • The tendons of the finger flexor muscles, which allow the fingers to bend
  • Arteries and veins

Median nerve in carpal tunnel syndrome

The median nerve supplies most of the feeling in the hand, particularly to the thumb, index and middle fingers, the thumb half of the palm and the outer side of the hand. It also controls the movement of many of the tendons that bend the fingers, allowing the hand to grasp objects as well as pinch.

Facts About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) results in more than two million visits to physicians' offices each year.
  • CTS strikes approximately three times as many women as men.
  • CTS is one of the most common job-related injuries.
  • Although it may be aggravated by work, CTS frequently occurs in people who are not working with their hands.
  • Approximately 260,000 carpal tunnel surgeries are performed each year in the U.S., and 47% of these are considered to be work-related.
  • According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1994, carpal tunnel syndrome accounted for 1.7% of workplace-related conditions in private industry that resulted in work loss.
  • Almost half of CTS cases result in 31 days or more of work loss.
  • If not properly treated, CTS can cause irreversible nerve damage and permanent disability of varying degrees.
  • CTS accounts for roughly 10% to 17% of repetitive strain injuries.
  • CTS is not a byproduct of the computer age. Meat packers complained of CTS symptoms as long ago as the mid-1800s.


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