The carpal tunnel is a structure in the wrist that contains the tendons that control the fingers and the median nerve, which innervates the thumb and first two fingers.

When the carpal tunnel is too small and/or inflammation occurs in the tendons that run through it, the median nerve becomes compressed, causing symptoms such as pain, numbness, and tingling in the wrist, hand, and fingers.

In This Article:

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

An illustration showing a hand with a red hue around it.

Persistent aching sensations in the wrist and hand may be seen in carpel tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Tingling and numbness in palm, thumb, or first two fingers, especially during the night or in the morning. The sensation may cause people to want to "shake out" the hand.
  • Aching pain in the wrist and hand, with occasional shooting pains up the forearm
  • Weakness in the hands and fingers and trouble gripping or holding objects

Carpal tunnel syndrome is treated with nonsurgical methods such as splinting, ice therapy, and behavioral modifications. It can also be treated surgically with a procedure called carpal tunnel release.

Watch: Video: How to Make 5 Quick and Easy Ice Packs


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome vs. Cervical Radiculopathy

An illiustration showing upper limb highlighted in red.

Dull pain, tingling, and weakness in the hand occur in both carpel tunnel syndrome and cervical radiculopathy.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is not the only condition that can cause numbness and tingling in the hands and wrists. These symptoms can also be caused by problems in the cervical spine.

Watch: Cervical Spine Anatomy Video

Conditions such as a herniated or degenerated disc, cervical stenosis, or cervical osteoarthritis can trigger impingement on the cervical osteoarthritis, which originate in the cervical spine and innervate almost the same areas of the hand as the median nerve.

See C6-C7 Treatment

Because they’re both conditions caused by nerve impingement, both carpal tunnel syndrome and cervical radiculopathy cause similar symptoms: dull pain, tingling, and/or numbness, with occasional shooting pains along the nerve path.

See Cervical Radiculopathy Symptoms


A comprehensive neurological evaluation can help identify whether the symptoms are being caused by carpal tunnel syndrome or a cervical spine condition. In fact, sometimes the two conditions are seen together, as nerve compression at the neck can make the nerves lower down more vulnerable. Clinical evaluation, electrodiagnostic testing EMG, and possibly neck imaging can help put together the pieces of the puzzle.

See What Causes Hand Pain and Numbness?

Both carpal tunnel syndrome and the various causes of cervical radiculopathy require treatment to prevent long-term nerve damage. Individuals with numbness and tingling in their hands or wrists should see their physician for diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Naomi Feuer is a neurologist at New York Physicians, LLC. She has more than 10 years of clinical experience and specializes in diagnostic testing, nerve testing, pain management, and physical therapy.

Find a Spine Center Near You

Search for a Spine Center