Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: When to seek medical advice?

By  , Expert Content
Jun 29, 2012

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Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common painful condition that affects the hand, wrist, and occasionally the entire upper extremity. CTS causes pain, numbness and burning or tingling sensation in the hand and fingers (except the little finger). Severity of symptoms can be mild as well as severe.

Consult a doctor if you have one or more of the following symptoms suggestive of a significant medical problem:

  • Tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in the fingers or hand which seem to be persistent. It keeps coming back and does not improve after 2 weeks of self-care and home treatment.
  • There is gradual decrease in sensation in your fingers or hand.
  • You find doing simple hand movements difficult or painful.
  • You often drop things accidentally.
  • You are not able to pinch your thumb and index finger together, or the pinch is weak.
  • You have difficulty in using your thumb normally (may be because of diminished thumb strength).
  • Have problems at work because of pain in your fingers or hand.

Emergency consult

  • Consult a doctor immediately or go to emergency room as soon as possible if you find sudden loss of feeling or movement in your arm.

Watchful Waiting

If you have mild pain or discomfort in the hands, you may try home treatment for 1 - 2 weeks before calling your doctor. However if there is no improvement with home treatment or you notice new symptoms, consult your doctor.

Who to consult

Some health professionals who can be consulted for symptoms such as pain, numbness and burning or tingling sensation in the hand and fingers include:

  • family medicine doctor
  • internist
  • occupational medicine specialist.

Your primary doctor may refer you to a specialist for further testing or evaluation. Specialist to whom you may be referred to include:

  • an orthopaedic surgeon (orthopaedist)
  • a neurologist
  • a hand surgeon
  • a rheumatologist
  • a physiatrist.

Treatment for CTS can be given by:

  • orthopaedic surgeon
  • physical or occupational therapist specialising in hands or overuse injuries
  • hand surgeon.

If surgery is needed, you may be sent to:

  • orthopaedic surgeon
  • hand surgeon.


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