What are the signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

  • Numbness - The first symptom is usually numbness or tingling in the thumb, index finger, long finger, and ring finger. Everyday activities that bend (flex) the wrist can make the numbness worse. Some examples of everyday activities that can cause problems are driving, writing, holding a book or newspaper, combing hair, or sleeping in an awkward position. Initially, the numbness may come and go. As the condition worsens, the numbness becomes more constant.

  • Weakness/ Muscle Loss - Patients may notice their grip weakening as the pressure on the median nerve increases. Over time, the muscles of the thumb will become smaller (atrophy).

  • Dropping Objects - Because of a weakened grip, patients frequently complain about dropping objects. This weakening, plus the loss of feeling in the thumb and fingers, does not allow the patient to notice the object slipping from the hand.

  • Pain - Pain is a less common symptom. The constant numbness can feel painful. A persistent ache, particularly in the thumb, may spread up to the shoulder, the neck, or both. In severe cases, there may be a constant burning pain in the wrist and hand.

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