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How Do You Get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

How Do You Get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS is a condition where a nerve on your wrist experiences pressure or is pinched. Typically, you can treat this condition at home and it’ll go away in a few months. But how exactly do you get carpal tunnel syndrome and what can you do to treat it?

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Before answering the question: how do you get carpal tunnel syndrome?, we must first clearly define what the “carpal tunnel” is.

Carpal Tunnel is a narrow tube or passageway at the base of the hand only about an inch wide. It “houses” the median nerve, one of the main nerves in the hands. The median nerve provides feelings to the thumb, index, middle, and half of the ring finger. Interestingly, the little finger is not affected. This median nerve runs from the forearm, passing through the carpal tunnel in the wrist, and finally to the palm.

CTS happens when the median nerve is compressed on the wrist.

How Do You Get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

You can develop carpal tunnel syndrome when there’s a pressure on your median nerve at the wrist. This pressure happens due to various reasons. To further elaborate, we can discuss the risk factors.


Although it’s going to be hard to determine this particular cause, heredity may be an important factor. Some people may have inherited a trait that makes their carpal tunnel narrower than normal. Additionally, anatomic differences that would give less space for the median nerve can also cause a problem.

Repetitive Hand Use

You may develop this condition from using your hands and wrists repetitively. Prolonged or repetitive motions may cause swelling to the tendons. This swelling may put unnecessary pressure on the median nerve, causing CTS.

Keep in mind that “abusive” motions using the hands and wrist may also cause this condition. These abusive motions include hyperextension or hyperflexion of the wrists.


Carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in women than in men. This might be because women have narrower carpal tunnel than men. Also, it seems like women who get this condition have a smaller carpal tunnel than women who don’t have it.

Pre-existing Conditions

One of the reasons why it’s hard to answer the question, how do you get carpal tunnel, is because other health conditions could cause it. For instance, conditions that damage the nerves may increase the risk of damaging the median nerve. Such conditions include diabetes.

Moreover, inflammatory disorders, like arthritis, may cause swelling to the tendons. The swelling may press the median nerve, causing CTS.

What Are the Signs of Nerve Damage?

Other Risk Factors

Knowing the following risk factors may also help in answering the query, how do you get carpal tunnel syndrome:

  • Trauma to the hands and wrists. This includes fracture or dislocation that may deform the bones of the wrist.
  • Medications. Some studies concluded that there are medications that increase the risk of developing CTS. One of them is anastrozole, a drug for breast cancer.
  • Changes in body fluids. At times, fluid retention may trigger CTS. Pregnancy and menopause may cause these changes in body fluids.
  • Obesity. Being obese raises the risk of CTS.
  • Workplace conditions. Some studies suggest that the use of vibrating tools or tools that require continuous hand flexing may trigger the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Additionally, CTS may also be linked in computer use, particularly using the mouse. Still, more studies are needed to confirm this.

Signs and Symptoms

Now that you have answered the question, how do you get carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s time to look out for the signs and symptoms:

  • Feelings of numbness or tingling in the fingers. You can feel this, particularly on the thumb, index, middle, and a portion of the ring finger. Sometimes you can also feel pain or a burning sensation.
  • “Shock-like” sensations. A person may feel this in all their fingers except the little finger.
  • Pain. The pain may also move towards the forearm and shoulders.
  • Difficulty in moving your fingers and hands. People with CTS may experience weakness in their hands. This is to the point that they find it difficult to do simple tasks like buttoning their shirt.
  • Dropping of things. Due to the weakness and numbness, affected people may start dropping things.


Knowing the answer to the inquiry how do you get carpal tunnel doesn’t end the problem. When you go to the doctor to be treated, surgery may be advised. The most common surgery is Open Release Surgery. This involves cutting the carpal ligament to enlarge the carpal tunnel. Enlarging the tunnel will relieve the pressure on the median nerve.

Aside from surgery, however, there are non-surgical management options:

  • Wearing a wrist splint. A wrist splint will keep your wrist straight. You need to wear it for 4 weeks before you begin to feel better.
  • Remove the trigger. If you feel that one of your activities is causing CTS, it’s better to stop it, or at least cut it down.
  • Take painkillers. When the pain becomes too uncomfortable, you may take OTC pain relievers. Remember that this doesn’t prevent CTS; it’s just short-term relief.


More than answering the question of how do you get carpal tunnel syndrome, let’s talk about prevention. To prevent the development of CTS, you can do the following:

  • While working, perform stretches.
  • Take frequent breaks, especially if your work makes repetitive hand motions.
  • Maintain the natural position of the wrist as much as possible.
  • Don’t sleep on your hands. If you can, sleep with your wrists straight.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, since obesity is a risk factor.
  • Manage other health conditions that may predispose you to develop CTS.

How do you get carpal tunnel syndrome is such a complicated question. You need to think about health factors, like pre-existing conditions, and work-related things like wrist positions and motions. Since our hands are so important in our activities of daily living, we need to take care of it by doing the preventive measures listed above.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated May 17
Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, M.D.