What is the Carpal Tunnel?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow, tunnel-like structure at the base of the hand. The tunnel bottom is comprised of wrist bones while the top of the tunnel is covered by the transverse carpal ligament, also known as the flexor retinaculum.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome - carpal tunnel median nerve

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the carpal tunnel pinches or puts pressure on the median nerve, shown above..

Nine flexor tendons as well as the median nerve run through the carpal tunnel as they travel from the forearm to the hand. The flexor tendons provide motion to the fingers. The median nerve controls sensation to the palm side of the hand and also supports movement of the fingers and thumb.


What is carpal tunnel syndrome

A view looking up through the carpal tunnel and into the hand. The median nerve is marked in red.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

When injury, repetitive motion, or disease causes the carpal tunnel to become inflamed and swell, said swelling can create pinching or pressure on the median nerve. If the pressure on the median nerve disturbs the normal function of the nerve it can result in numbness, tingling, and pain felt in the fingers, palm, and hand. These symptoms are known as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Any condition that results in swelling or a change in position of the tissues within the carpal tunnel can irritate and impinge (squeeze) the median nerve and lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that affects almost 5 million US workers, 5.8% of women and 0.6% of men.1 It is one of the most common causes of occupational absenteeism and disability. The condition has an estimated economic cost in excess of $2.8 billion a year.

The next time a person asks you, “What is carpal tunnel syndrome?” just refer them to this information.

Carpal Tunnel Main Page    Carpal Tunnel Causes

Video: What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? (in 2 minutes)

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1. Luckhaupt SE, Dahlhamer JM, Ward BW, Sweeney MH, Sestito JP, Calvert GM. Prevalence and work-relatedness of carpal tunnel syndrome in the working population, United States, 2010 National Health Interview Survey. Am J Ind Med. 2012;1–10.