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Carpal tunnel syndrome

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition of the hand and wrist.

Pain and numbness come as a result of the median nerve getting compressed inside a tight compartment in the wrist. The condition can be caused by many factors including genetics, variations in individual anatomy, medical conditions, and some job or recreational stressors.

Marshfield Clinic employs physician specialists who are experts in treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.


In most cases, your doctor will recommend non-surgical procedures to relieve your pain. Those treatments may include:

Non-surgical treatments

  • Simply reducing the activities that cause the symptoms can help to relieve pain.
  • Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or losing weight can also help relieve the condition.
  • Some types of exercises have also shown to help prevent or at least control the symptoms of carpal tunnel.


  • Oral steroid medication may also offer some relief of pain and swelling but may produce side-effects in some patients.
  • An injection of cortisone into the carpal tunnel may be suggested to reduce swelling in the tunnel and provide relief.

Assistance Devices

A wrist brace or splint may decrease the symptoms in the early stages of CTS as it keeps the wrist in a "resting" position that keeps the carpal tunnel as big as it can be, keeping pressure off the median nerve.

Physical therapy

Your doctor may recommend a consultation with a physical therapist who will advise you on better body and wrist positioning as well as useful exercises to help prevent symptoms.


​For some patients, surgery​ is the best treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • "Open release" is the most common surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. A small incision is made down the front of the wrist and palm so the surgeon can cut the transverse ligament and take pressure off the median nerve. Newer techniques allow for less invasive surgery and may promote faster recovery.
  • Endoscopic Release is a procedure in which the surgeon inserts an endoscope (thin, fiber-optic camera) allowing the surgeon to see the inside of the carpal tunnel. Then a special knife is used to cut the transverse carpal ligament to relieve the nerve pressure.​
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 Carpal tunnel video

What Do You Know About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The carpal tunnel isn’t a feature along your local interstate. It’s a pathway inside your wrist that carries the median nerve from your arm to your hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects your hand. Test your knowledge of carpal tunnel syndrome by taking this quiz.

1. What is one of the main symptoms of carpel tunnel syndrome?
2. Which of these is another common symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome?
3. Women are more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
4. You are more likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome if you work on an assembly line than in data-entry.
5. Carpal tunnel release is one of the most common surgeries done in the U.S.
6. Surgery is the only way to treat carpal tunnel syndrome.
7. How can you help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome while at work?

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