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It starts off with a little tingling on your fingers. It comes and goes—sometimes it’s so subtle that most people who experience it tend to brush it off. And then you notice the tingling has become more frequent…and is accompanied by numbness. Your hand feels weaker…sometimes you even get bursts of pain.

These could all be carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.  The condition occurs when the median nerve—the nerve that runs down the length of your arm to your hand—is compressed and becomes swollen.

Classic carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms usually affect your thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. The little finger is typically not affected because a different nerve serves it. And the condition can easily be diagnosed with a simple physical exam.

The key is in recognizing carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms early. The longer you leave symptoms untreated, the higher the chances of permanent nerve damage.  

What are the early signs?

Carpal tunnel symptoms tend to come and go. But over time, especially when you ignore early signs, they occur more often and can gradually intensify.

  • Symptoms start out slowly with tingling, numbness, or a burning sensation creeping through your thumb and fingers (except your pinkie). The tingling sensation may also travel up your forearm.
  • Because people usually sleep with their wrists bent, it adds pressure on the median nerve and as a result, symptoms are more common during the night.
  • As your condition worsens, symptoms begin manifesting during the day as well—often during activities that require you to bend your wrists for long periods of time such as driving, or holding your phone.
  • You notice that your grip and ability to pinch starts to get affected—you begin to drop things more often as your hand feel weaker; it becomes harder to handle small objects; or even something as simple as making a fist becomes more difficult.

When should you call a doctor?

Once the symptoms above begin to manifest more often and on a more regular basis, you have to seek expert opinion from a medical professional.

Mild cases usually entail resting your hand or wearing a brace or splint or a Carpal Tunnel Wrist Brace to help relieve carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. More advanced cases, usually due to patients ignoring the early signs, may require steroid injections, or surgery to help release the ligament that’s putting pressure on the median nerve.

Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms won’t just go away. Without treatment, you could end up with permanent nerve damage and your symptoms could become more pervasive. So if you’re already exhibiting these early symptoms, be sure to schedule an appointment with a trusted physician to get an accurate diagnosis.

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