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man at desk holding his wrist carpal tunnel causes
By In-house Team, Circle Health Group

What causes carpal tunnel?

We explore carpal tunnel syndrome, shedding light on its primary triggers, the anatomy playing behind the scenes, and the importance of understanding its causes for effective management. By familiarising yourself with the condition, you're paving the path toward better hand and wrist health.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the fingers or hands, especially the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. This uncomfortable sensation can extend up towards the arm. The culprit behind this syndrome is a pressured median nerve, located in the wrist's carpal tunnel. Understanding the underlying causes of carpal tunnel syndrome is important as it steers the course for effective treatment, meaning that you can have a quicker return to your daily activities unhindered by discomfort.

What is carpal tunnel?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm side of your wrist, bound by bones and ligaments. This little tunnel is a busy roadway that contains one of the main nerves in your hand (the median nerve) and also for the tendons (connective tissue) to your fingers and thumb. The median nerve controls the feelings and sensations on the palm side of your fingers, except for the little finger. It also sends signals to move the muscles around the base of your thumb. Therefore, any pressure exerted on this nerve can trigger the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The roof of this tunnel is made up of a strong band of connective tissue known as the transverse carpal ligament. Any swelling of this area can cause pressure on the median nerve, which leads to the unpleasant sensations of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Anatomy of carpal tunnel

The design of the carpal tunnel is quite rigid, which leaves little room to accommodate swelling or enlargement of the structures within it. When the median nerve, which passes through this tight space, is compressed, the result is a variety of symptoms that can affect your hand and wrist, creating a ripple of discomfort that may hinder your daily activities.

There are a number of treatment options available at Circle Health Group to help ease these symptoms and regain ease and comfort in your daily hand and wrist movements.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the fingers or hands, especially the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger.

Common causes of carpal tunnel

Understanding the triggers of carpal tunnel syndrome can be a gateway to both effective treatment and preventive measures. Let's delve into some primary causes:

Medical conditions causing carpal tunnel:

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease can cause inflammation in the wrists, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. The swelling narrows the carpal tunnel, exerting pressure on the median nerve, which in turn causes discomfort and the characteristic symptoms of CTS.


Having diabetes can lead to nerve damage, which heightens the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Proper management of diabetes can mitigate this risk, showcasing the intertwined relationship between systemic diseases and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Hormonal changes

Particularly during pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations can cause swelling and lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Often, the symptoms resolve post-pregnancy, but it's a crucial sign of how hormone levels impact our wrist health.

Work and everyday activities

Repetitive hand and wrist motions

Engaging in repetitive motions, like typing or any motion that you might perform over and over at work, can cause inflammation in the tendons passing through the carpal tunnel, leading to nerve compression.

Prolonged improper wrist position

Maintaining your wrist in an unnatural or uncomfortable position for a long duration can increase pressure on the median nerve, making it essential to maintain ergonomically friendly workstations.

Activities causing pressure on the median nerve

Actions that involve heavy gripping or vibrating power tools can exacerbate pressure on the median nerve, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome over time.

Physical Injuries that cause carpal tunnel

Wrist fractures and sprains

Fractures or sprains can alter the space within the carpal tunnel, causing compression on the median nerve.


Any swelling in the wrist can exert pressure on the median nerve, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. The connection between physical injuries and CTS underscores the importance of proper wrist care post-injury.

Risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome

Apart from direct causes, certain risk factors can predispose you to carpal tunnel syndrome:

Gender and age

Women and older individuals are at higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, due to hormonal changes and natural wear and tear of the wrist structures, respectively. The narrower carpal tunnel in women also predisposes them to median nerve compression.

Genetic predisposition

A hereditary smaller carpal tunnel or other inherited anatomical differences can increase the likelihood of nerve compression. It's an aspect that further highlights the multifaceted nature of carpal tunnel syndrome and its interaction with our genetic blueprint.


Carrying excess body weight can contribute to both inflammation and direct compression on the median nerve within the carpal tunnel. Therefore, addressing obesity can be a proactive step towards both preventing and alleviating carpal tunnel syndrome.

The variety in the causes and risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome highlights a complex relationship between our daily activities, systemic health conditions, and inherent bodily structures due to our genetics.

A holistic understanding of these elements, along with personalised advice from healthcare professionals at Circle Health Group , can significantly contribute towards better wrist and hand health, leading to a life unhindered by carpal tunnel syndrome.

Diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome

To address carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) effectively, an accurate diagnosis is crucial. Here's how medical professionals might determine if you're experiencing CTS:

Physical examination

Tinel’s sign and Phalen’s test

During a physical exam, your doctor may perform Tinel's sign, where they tap the skin over the median nerve to see if it causes tingling in the fingers. Similarly, Phalen's test involves holding your arms out in front of you and flexing your wrists. Any tingling or numbness during these tests could indicate CTS.

Wrist position

Wrist position during the examination is crucial as it can either ease or worsen the symptoms, aiding in a more accurate diagnosis.

Nerve conduction study

This diagnostic procedure helps to measure how well the median nerve can transmit electrical signals. If there's a delay or absence of signal transmission, it may indicate carpal tunnel syndrome, giving a clear picture of nerve functionality.


An electromyogram tests the health of the muscles and the nerves controlling the muscles. While it may not directly diagnose CTS, it can help rule out other conditions.

Treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome

Treatment for CTS can be as varied as its causes. Let’s explore the common non-surgical and surgical treatments available:

Non-Surgical treatments for carpal tunnel

Wrist splints and corticosteroid injections

Wrist splints help keep your wrist in a neutral position, alleviating pressure on the median nerve. Corticosteroid injections can help reduce swelling and relieve pressure on the nerve, providing temporary relief from symptoms.

Keeping the wrist straight

This simple measure can significantly help in reducing the symptoms, especially during activities that tend to worsen the pain.

Surgical treatments for carpal tunnel

Carpal tunnel release surgery

We consider carpal tunnel release surgery when other treatments haven't provided relief. The procedure involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament to alleviate pressure on the median nerve, which usually provides long-term relief.

The surgery can be performed as an open surgery or endoscopically, each with its benefits and considerations. It's essential to have a thorough discussion with your healthcare provider to determine the most suitable treatment option for your condition.

By understanding the diagnostic procedures and treatment options, you can take a proactive stance in managing carpal tunnel syndrome. With personalised advice, you can make informed decisions to restore your hand and wrist health.

Keeping the wrist straight... can significantly help in reducing the symptoms, especially during activities that tend to worsen the pain.

Preventive measures for carpal tunnel syndrome

Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) begins with awareness and thoughtful daily habits. Here are some strategies to help keep this condition at bay:

Maintaining a neutral wrist position

Whether you're typing or performing repetitive hand movements, maintaining a neutral wrist position can help avoid undue pressure on your median nerve.

Taking breaks during repetitive tasks

It's important to take regular breaks to stretch and flex your hands and wrists, especially during repetitive tasks that can strain your hand and wrist muscles.

Balanced diet and healthy weight

Maintaining a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can potentially ease symptoms or prevent CTS. Keeping a healthy weight can also reduce your risk, as obesity is a known risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Take action against carpal tunnel today

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can significantly impact your daily life, but understanding its causes, risk factors, and the available treatment options can lead to effective management or even prevention of this condition. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, seeking help is the crucial next step.

Don't let Carpal Tunnel Syndrome slow you down. At Circle Health Group, we offer personalised advice and treatment plans to help manage or alleviate your symptoms. Whether you're in the early stages of the condition or seeking surgical solutions, our team of experienced specialists is here to support your journey towards better hand and wrist health.

Ready to take the next step? Book an appointment online with us today, or give us a call directly, and we'll help connect you with the right specialist to address your concerns. Your path to a comfortable and active life could be just a call away.

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If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on this subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Circle Hospital.