Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Cause, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

By Dr. Padma Kumari Muthuswamy | Published: June 30th, 2016

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 Carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS is more common in people in their 50’s and women, especially during pregnancy. Both men and women in their 70’s are equally affected.

The compression of the median nerve as it travels through the wrist causes CTS. The median nerve is responsible for sensation in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. It also controls the movement of the small muscles at the base of the thumb.

Symptoms of CTS

  • Pins and needles as shown in the shaded areas
  • Pain in the same fingers
  • Numbness when the condition becomes worse
  • Weakness of some muscles in the fingers and/or thumb in severe cases, causing poor grip
  • Typically symptoms are worse at night initially and can persist all the time when it becomes severe


  • Mostly unknown
  • Arthritic conditions of the wrist
  • Other conditions like pregnancy, obesity, hypothyroidism, diabetes etc.


  • Only with symptoms and physical signs like Tinel’s and Phalen’s tests (to be done by Doctor) can a diagnosis can be made.
  • Sometimes nerve conduction studies may be advised.
  • Treatment

General measures

  • Don’t overuse the wrist,
  • If overweight, try losing weight
  • Painkillers to help with the pain
  • Wrist splint helps rest the nerve
  • Steroid injection into or near the carpal tunnel


  • The ligament is cut over the front of the wrist to ease the pressure in the carpal tunnel. The surgery can be performed under local or general anaesthesia.

The good news is that some times, the symptoms may disappear without active treatment.


About the author

Dr. Padma Kumari Muthuswamy

Dr. Padmakumari Muthuswamy MBBS, MRCGP (UK), DRCOG (UK) Dr. Padma’s special interest is Primary healthcare (PHC). A graduate of Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, Chennai, she trained in Family Medicine at Nottingham, UK for 4 years and worked as a General Practice Partner for over 5 years after obtaining her MRCGP from the Royal College of General Practitioners, London. Other credentials include a DRCOG from the Royal college of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London as a part of primary health care delivery, a University Certificate in Palliative Care for General Practice from Teesside University, Newcastle, UK and a Diploma in Entrepreneurship and Business Laws from NUJS Kolkata. Dr. Padma is keen to be a part of the change in India’s health system, with an emphasis on primary and preventive healthcare.