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What Does Carpal Tunnel Feel Like

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A Complete Insight On Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

How do I know if I have carpal tunnel syndrome? | Augusta Kluk, MD | UCHealth

The syndrome of the carpal tunnel is a painful hand-and-wrist disorder. The carpal tunnel is a narrow tunnel made up of your wrists bones and other tissues. This tunnel shields your median nerve. The median nerve helps to move the first three fingers and thumbs on both hands.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the swelling or inflammation of other tissues in the carpal tunnel . They push the median nerve when they do. This pressure can hurt or feel numb in your hand.

Usually carpal tunnel syndrome is not severe. Usually pain will go away with carpal tunnel treatment and your hand or wrist will not be damaged lastingly.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery Recovery

Many people notice an improvement in carpal tunnel symptoms right after surgery. However, there may be some stiffness and swelling. If that happens to you, raise your hand above the level of your heart and wiggle your fingers frequently to relieve discomfort. The doctor may advise you to wear a carpal tunnel wrist brace for several weeks during healing. Pain, stiffness, and weakness usually resolve within two months. However, complete carpal tunnel surgery recovery time may be up to six months to a year.

How Often Is Hand Pain Caused By Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

While carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition, it has a different set of symptoms from many other sources of hand pain. There are actually several similar conditions that cause hand pain. These include:

  • De Quervains tendinosis: A condition where swelling affects the wrist and base of the thumb. In this condition, you will feel pain when you make a fist and simulate shaking someones hand.
  • Trigger finger: This condition causes soreness at the base of the finger or thumb. Trigger finger also causes pain, locking and stiffness when bending the fingers and thumb.
  • Arthritis: This is a general term for many conditions that cause stiffness and swelling in your joints. Arthritis can impact many joints in your body and ranges from causing small amounts of discomfort to breaking down the joint over time .

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What Does Nerve Pain Feel Like

Nerve pain often affects all people differently. Some patients feel just numbness and loose sensitivity in their finger tips. They start dropping things more regularly than normal and feeling clumsy and are unable to do simple tasks like buttoning a button or twisting a lid off a jar.

Other patients feel a pins and needles sensation like their hand or foot is falling asleep.

Still other patients describe an intense burning sensation like their hands or wrists are catching fire.

Some describe excruciating pain to the point that they feel the urge to cut off their arms.

Patients also describe shooting electrical-like shocks going up their arm or down their fingers that feel like they hit their funny bone on the edge of a door jam.

Some describe a dull achy feeling in their muscles, as if they have an injured the muscle. Often muscles control is lost and muscles dont respond in a normal way.

Different patients report different aspects of all of the above sensations in different parts of their body along the nerve path. In the case of Carpal Tunnel that nerve path starts at the finger tips and runs through the hands, wrists, arms, elbows, shoulders and even the neck.

One thing is consistent, the symptoms associated with a nerve condition are usually intense and can be extremely frustrating.

This behavior combined with the clumsiness can also affect the way people perceive you as a productive person at work.

When To See A Doctor For Carpal Tunnel

What Does Carpal Tunnel Feel Like?

When you cant sleep because of the pain in your hand, wrist or forearm, it is time to see a specialist. You need to find out the cause, whether it is carpal tunnel or another medical problem.

If your symptoms occur occasionally, they might not be related to carpal tunnel. Most people have had a hand that falls asleep, for example. However, when it happens often, you should talk to your doctor.

If you do have carpal tunnel syndrome and dont get treatment, the symptoms can get worse. In some cases, they may disappear for a while, then return.

Bottom line is with early diagnosis, the treatment is easier. With proper treatment, the tingling, numbness and other symptoms can resolve. You can regain your wrist and hand function.

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What It Actually Feels Like

Most people describe the feeling like a painful tingle almost like the pins and needles sensation when your foot falls asleep. Somepeople describe the pain like a burning sensation, shocking sensation, or ashooting sensation.

For some people, the sensations are bothersome, but notunbearable. For other people, they cannot stand the sensation and even need tobe put on medications by their physicians for their symptoms. This simply showshow variable the symptoms can be from person to person.

Do I Have Carpal Tunnel Or Something Else

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common term that we hear from family and friends when we complain of numbness or pain in the wrist. Its the one condition that seems the most likely cause because its quite well known. However, just because carpal tunnel syndrome is well-known does not mean it is the only condition that causes wrist pain and numbness.

It is important to understand the symptoms of other common conditions that relate to the hand and wrist, as well as carpal tunnel syndrome, to rule out other possibilities.

In this article, we will cover common conditions that cause numbing, tingling, pain, or numbness in the fingers and wrists as well as what you should do if you believe you have one of these conditions.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when pressure is applied to your median nerve by the carpal bones. When swelling happens in your wrist, the carpal tunnel constricts the median nerve causing symptoms to appear. These symptoms could be radiating pain from the forearm to the shoulder, numbness, burning, or tingling starting at the thumb, pinky, or felt within the forearm.

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome typically start slow and are felt mostly at night. This is due to sleeping positions that cause restriction within the wrists. How to tell is if you feel the need to shake your wrist to regain feeling. As the condition worsens, you will begin to feel symptoms during the day while driving, typing, or talking on the phone.

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What Is Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery

Carpal tunnel release is a surgery used to treat and potentially heal the painful condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Doctors used to think that carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by an overuse injury or a repetitive motion performed by the wrist or hand, often at work. They now know that it’s most likely a congenital predisposition some people simply have smaller carpal tunnels than others. Carpal tunnel syndrome can also be caused by injury, such as a sprain or fracture, or repetitive use of a vibrating tool. It’s also been linked to pregnancy, diabetes, thyroid disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The median nerve and tendons that allow your fingers to move pass through a narrow passageway in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is formed by the wrist bones on the bottom and the transverse carpal ligament across the top of the wrist. When this part of the body is injured or tight, swelling of the tissues within the tunnel can press on the median nerve. This causes numbness and tingling of the hand, pain, and loss of function if not treated. Symptoms usually start slowly, and may get worse over time. They tend to be worse on the thumb side of the hand.

During a carpal tunnel release, a surgeon cuts through the ligament that is pressing down on the carpal tunnel. This makes more room for the median nerve and tendons passing through the tunnel, and usually improves pain and function.

How Do I Get Ready For Carpal Tunnel Surgery

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – How Do I Know If I Have It?
  • Tell your doctor about all medicines you are currently taking, including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. You will probably need to stop taking any medicines that make it harder for the blood to clot, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen.
  • If you’re a smoker, try to quit before to the surgery. Smoking can delay healing.
  • You may need to get blood tests or an electrocardiogram before surgery.
  • You will usually be asked not to eat or drink anything for 6 to 12 hours before the surgery.

Based on your medical condition, your doctor may request other specific preparations.

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Can Carpal Tunnel Arm Pain Be Cured

Some patients may require surgery to alleviate the arm pain associated with CTS. When surgery is performed, the goal is to make the carpal tunnel passage larger and to relieve pressure on the affected nerve. Surgery can be performed via a less invasive endoscopic procedure or through a full incision in the hand and wrist area.

Both types of surgeries carry risk of infection, nerve damage, and lack of success. Also, surgery can be as debilitating as the syndrome itself.

Alternative therapies may provide relief. These alternative therapies include acupuncture, massage therapy, mayo-facial release technique, ultrasound therapy and physical therapy. In some cases, herbal or nutritional support may help reduce inflammation and alleviate nerve pain.

If the median nerve pain stems from a problem in the neck, then chiropractic treatment may hold the solution. Structural correction of a neck misalignment can allow the nerves exiting the neck to heal. If, however, there is significant damage to the structure of the neck such as severe degenerative arthritis a neurosurgeon may need to be consulted.

How Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated

Treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome should begin as early as possible, under a doctor’s direction. Underlying causes such as diabetes or arthritis should be treated first.

Non-surgical treatments

  • Splinting. Initial treatment is usually a splint worn at night.
  • Avoiding daytime activities that may provoke symptoms. Some people with slight discomfort may wish to take frequent breaks from tasks, to rest the hand. If the wrist is red, warm and swollen, applying cool packs can help.
  • Over-the-counter drugs. In special circumstances, various medications can ease the pain and swelling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other nonprescription pain relievers, may provide some short-term relief from discomfort but havent been shown to treat CTS.
  • Prescription medicines. Corticosteroids or the drug lidocaine can be injected directly into the wrist or taken by mouth to relieve pressure on the median nerve in people with mild or intermittent symptoms.
  • Alternative therapies. Acupuncture and chiropractic care have benefited some individuals but their effectiveness remains unproved. An exception is yoga, which has been shown to reduce pain and improve grip strength among those with CTS.


Recurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome following treatment is rare. Less than half of individuals report their hand feeling completely normal following surgery. Some residual numbness or weakness is common..

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment

If carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by a medical problem , your doctor should treat that problem first. Your doctor may ask you to rest your wrist or change how you use your hand. He or she may also ask you to wear a splint on your wrist. The splint keeps your wrist from moving but lets your hand do most of what it normally does. A splint can help ease the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome, especially at night.

Putting ice on your wrist to reduce swelling, massaging the area, and doing stretching exercises may also help. An over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug can relieve swelling and pain. These medicines include aspirin, ibuprofen , and naproxen . In more severe cases, your doctor might inject your wrist with a corticosteroid, which reduces inflammation and pain.

What Are The Early Signs

My hands Feel Like Sandpaper. Is this Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Typically, the symptoms start out slowly, with burning, numbness, tingling, or pain. You might feel it in your thumb and any of your fingers, but not your pinkie. The strange feeling may also travel up your forearm.

Often, symptoms start at night. Thatâs because most people sleep with their wrists bent, which causes pressure on the median nerve. You might wake up feeling like you need to shake your hands out.

As your condition gets worse, you may notice symptoms during the day, as well. This often happens when youâre doing something where your wrist is bent up or down for a long time, like driving a car, reading a newspaper, or holding your phone.

At first, symptoms tend to come and go. But over time, they occur more often and become worse.

You might also notice other symptoms:

  • Your fingers feel swollen, even though they donât look like it.
  • Pain and tingling travel up your forearm to your shoulder.
  • âShocksâ come and go in your thumb and fingers.

Over time, carpal tunnel can also affect your grip and ability to pinch. Here are some things that could be happening:

  • You drop things more often .
  • Youâre having a hard time working with small objects, like the buttons on your shirt.
  • Itâs harder to make a fist than it used to be.

In more severe cases, you can lose muscle at the base of your thumb. Or you may no longer be able to tell hot from cold just by touch.

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What Does Carpal Tunnel Feel Like In Your Hand

Symptoms in your fingers and thumb may come and go at first. As the condition worsens, it becomes harder to ignore. Sensations in the hand may include:

  • numbness
  • feeling like your fingers are swollen, even though theyre not
  • coldness

Symptoms typically show up only on the side of the ring finger closest to the middle finger, but symptoms can also affect other fingers.

What To Expect After Surgery

There may be some swelling and stiffness right after surgery, which can be relieved by elevating your hand over your heart and moving your fingers frequently. You may need to wear a wrist brace for a few weeks while you heal, but will still be able to use your hands. Pain and weakness usually resolve within two months after surgery, but it may take six months to a year to recover completely.

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Traditional Treatments For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

More serious cases of carpal tunnel syndrome may require your doctors help.

Your doctor may recommend corticosteroids to lessen your pain and inflammation. These drugs reduce the amount of swelling and pressure placed on the median nerve. Injections are more effective than oral steroids. This therapy may be particularly effective if your CTS is caused by inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Your doctor may also recommend surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve. This typically involves making one or two incisions in the area affected and cutting the ligament involved. This will release the nerve and increase the space around the nerve.

The ligament will eventually grow back, allowing more space for your nerve than there was before. If your CTS is severe, surgery may not clear up your symptoms completely, but it should help you feel better and help prevent any further damage to the nerve.

What Does That Mean

What Does A Fractured Arm & Broken Wrist Look Like | SURGERY NEEDED: Carpal Cubital Tunnel Release

Radiculopathy refers to the radiating of pain out from its original source, even though there may not be any pain at the source location.

In other words, if you have a herniated disc in the neck, you will not necessarily have neck pain.

A herniated disc is actually a bulging disc. The bulging presses on nerves.

This may make the nerves more excitable or irritable, and more sensitive to damage elsewhere, such as at the wrist in the carpal tunnel, says Dr. Rue.

In this case, it is often necessary to treat both sites of involvement in order to get full relief from the nerve symptoms.

This is fairly common, requiring careful review of your history of symptoms, detailed physical examination, and to differentiate the problem.

Dr. Rue specializes in prevention and treatment of sports and exercise injuries. His primary focuses are knee, shoulder and elbow injuries including ACL and cartilage injuries, rotator cuff injuries and overuse tendonitis.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. Shes also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.

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What Are Home Remedies For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Home care for carpal tunnel syndrome is straightforward and can often provide relief for mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Wear a wrist splint to keep the wrist in an optimal position at rest. Splinting is usually tried for a period of four to six weeks. Some people wear their splints at night only and others wear their splints both day and night, depending upon when the symptoms are at their worst. If no relief is found at four to six weeks, the splints are not likely to help.

Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

There are several tests your doctor will perform to see if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. The Tinel test involves tapping on the median nerve to see if it causes tingling in the fingers. In the Phalen test, the doctor will have you press the backs of your hands together for a minute to see if this causes numbness or tingling.

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