Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ


Is there any way to figure out why I developed carpal tunnel syndrome? I don't sew, crochet, or work with my hands like some of my friends who have this condition. It just came on by itself.


You may have a type of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) called idiopathic, which means unknown cause. In many cases, CTS is the result of repetitive hand and wrist motions. Working at a computer keyboard, playing a musical instrument, or doing handwork as you suggested are commonly linked with CTS.

There are some medical reasons for CTS. These can include tumors, diabetes, lupus, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or kidney failure. Other causes of CTS include thyroid problems, nerve entrapment, or vitamin B deficiency. Some medications can also cause damage to the nerves resulting in CTS.

It's best to see a physician who can assess your symptoms more accurately. Testing to identify the location and cause of the nerve compression may be needed. Ultrasound can show any swelling of the median nerve as it passes through the entrance or exit of the carpal tunnel.

X-rays and other imaging such as CT scan or MRIs may be used to rule out fractures, tumors, or other space occupying lesions. Lab tests may be ordered to look for rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or hypothyroidism as a possible cause.

Sometimes the condition is treated to see if the symptoms will go away. The cause of the problem may be identified this way. For example, CTS associated with vitamin deficiency may go away with vitamin supplementation. Hand therapy to restore nerve and tendon gliding, stretch the connective tissue around the nerve, and reduce swelling in the carpal tunnel may be helpful.

If a physician hasn’t evaluated you, this may be your first step. Proper diagnosis is needed before the best treatment can be applied. Bayram Kaymak, MD, et al. A Comparison of the Benefits of Sonography and Electrophysiologic Measurements as Predictors of Symptom Severity and Funcitonal Status in Patients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. April 2008. Vol. 89. No. 4. Pp. 743-748.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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