The carpal tunnel is a space on the bottom of the wrist that contains several bones, tissues, tendons and the median nerve. This nerve is responsible for providing sensation to the palm side of all fingers except the pinky, and it helps control the muscles around the base of the thumb. When the tendons within the carpal tunnel thicken or swell, it narrows the small space of the tunnel and crowds the median nerve. This results in carpal tunnel syndrome, a common nerve disorder of the hand and arm.
Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome usually notice a burning or tingling sensation first, but this will eventually lead to pain, weakness or numbness in the hand and wrist. This is usually felt most in the thumb, index and middle fingers, and these strange sensations and pain may also travel up the arm towards the shoulder. Symptoms tend to be worse at night from the curling of the wrist, and though most patients only deal with problems on one side, CTS can affect both sides of the body in some cases. As a result, these symptoms will typically have a negative affect on hand strength and sensation, and cause a decrease in hand function that will make performing certain daily tasks more difficult.