Carpal tunnel symptoms

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness and/or pain in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms are often first noticed at night, when patients may wake up from sleep because of carpal tunnel symptoms. Symptoms usually include numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain.  Most often symptoms appear in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and ring finger. Symptoms appearing in these fingers, but not in the little finger (pinky) may be a sign of carpal tunnel syndrome. Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome often find themselves shaking their hand to find relief from numbness or pain.  

Sometimes patients may be feel clumsy with their hands and notice themselves dropping objects.  When left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause permanent loss of sensation, and cause shrinking of the thumb muscles.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms can Spread

When mild, symptoms are generally limited to the hand. As the condition progresses and worsens symptoms can often affect the arm.  In some cases symptoms like pain and numbs may eventually radiate up the arm to the shoulder.

Common Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

  • Numbness and/or pain in your hand, wrist, or forearm and wakes you up from sleep or is worse at night.  Many individuals find that shaking their hands, moving their fingers, or hanging their arm off the side of the bed can help ease the numbness and pain.
  • Hand “falling asleep” sensation – tingling, numbness, or “pins-and-needles” feeling.
  • Numbness or pain that occurs after using your hand or wrist, particularly after activites that bend your wrist, involve gripping with your hand or require small hand motions.
  • A dull, or aching pain in your forearm.
  • Stiffness in your fingers when you get up from sleeping.

Severe Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

Severe symptoms often interfere with or restrict day-to-day activities.  With moderate, advanced, or chronic carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms it can become extremely difficult to perform everyday activities like brushing your teeth, holding a child, drink from a cup, or using your fork.  In severe cases it is common to have a loss of feeling and sensation in the fingers, a loss off hand movement and dexterity, a loss of strength in the thumb, and poor, interrupted, or disturbed sleep.

Moderate, advanced, or severe carpal tunnel symptoms can include reduced hand strength and/or loss of grip strength in addition to numbness and pain.  You may have severe carpal tunnel symptoms if you:

  • Find yourself accidentally drop things.
  • Have difficulty pinching with your thumb and index finger.
  • Have trouble with basic hand movements like holding combing your hair or holding a spoon.
  • Unable to use your thumb for household tasks, e.g. as opening a jar.  If left untreated chronic carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to weakening and diminishing (atrophy) of the thumb muscle (thenar muscle).

It should be noted that not all pain in the wrist or hand is caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. There are many other conditions with similar symptoms. Want to how carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed? Read the next section.

Carpal Tunnel Prevention    Carpal Tunnel Diagnosis