Carpal Tunnel Home > Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

In many cases, carpal tunnel symptoms begin with pain, burning, tingling, or numbness in the hands and fingers. They usually first appear in one or both hands during the night, but as the condition progresses and worsens, the symptoms may occur during the day as well. Other signs or symptoms of the condition may include clumsiness, decreased grip strength, or muscle wasting.

Signs and Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: An Overview

The carpal tunnel is a narrow space in your wrist through which the median nerve runs. This nerve controls sensation for the thumb, index, middle, and one-half of the ring finger. It also controls certain muscles that move the thumb.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is "entrapped" within the carpal tunnel for a long enough period of time that injury occurs (see Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome). This injury can result in carpal tunnel symptoms and signs.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can affect one or both hands, although one side is usually affected worse than the other.

Common Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually start gradually. These early symptoms can include a vague ache in the wrist or hand. Symptoms may also begin with changes in sensation, which can include burning or tingling in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb, index, middle, and one-half of the ring finger. The tingling may begin at night, but as carpal tunnel symptoms worsen, people might feel tingling during the day. The tingling and burning may eventually turn into numbness. The median nerve does not control sensation for the little finger, so a person with carpal tunnel syndrome should not have tingling or numbness in this finger.
Pain is another common symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome. This often first appears at night, since many people sleep with flexed wrists. A person with carpal tunnel syndrome may wake up feeling the need to "shake out" the hand or wrist or let the hands dangle out of bed. Pain may be increased during the day with activity.
Early on, pain, tingling, and numbness with carpal tunnel syndrome may come and go. These symptoms may be affected by certain activities, such as holding the phone, reading, or driving. As the condition worsens, symptoms may begin to occur more frequently, eventually becoming constant. Carpal tunnel symptoms are common in the hand and fingers, although symptoms can also travel up the arm.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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