What happens if you don’t treat carpal tunnel syndrome?

What happens if you don’t treat carpal tunnel syndrome?

The carpal tunnel is a small passageway in the midline of the wrist where the forearm joins the palm. The median nerve and nine tendons pass through the canal. The median nerve provides sensation to the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. It also controls several muscles in the base of the thumb.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can present in all individuals regardless of age and sex. However, according to an article published by the Mayo Clinic, “Carpal tunnel syndrome is generally more common in women. This may be because the carpal tunnel area is relatively smaller in women than in men.”  Other risk factors that may make an individual more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome include: diabetes, cysts that encroach on the carpal tunnel passageway, drinking alcohol, being overweight, thyroid disease, arthritis affecting the wrist, and other inflammatory or nerve damaging conditions.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) occurs when the pressure inside the carpal tunnel increases. This can happen for any number of reasons, but it most commonly occurs as a result of repetitive, traumatic movements. The movements are typically related to occupational tasks such as typing, jack hammering, surgery, etc. When the pressure within the canal increases, the median nerve may become compressed preventing normal nerve conduction leading to decreased functioning of the nerve. As a result, the fingers innervated by the nerve will begin to tingle and become numb, and the overall strength and coordination of the hand will eventually decrease. A common finding of carpal tunnel syndrome is waking up in the middle of the night with a numb or tingling sensation in the affected hand. Most people report the need to shake out the hand to relieve the sensations.

The treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome begins with conservative options such as wrist splints and steroid injections. If these treatments don’t work, then a carpal tunnel release procedure may be recommended. Releasing the carpal tendon opens the canal and relieves the pressure on the nerve. The carpal tunnel can be released through regular surgery or with an endoscopic surgery.

Carpal tunnel syndrome should be diagnosed by a specialized doctor after a thorough evaluation of symptoms and a physical exam. Sometimes additional studies such as an EMG (nerve conduction test) or an MRI are necessary. According to an article published by the Hospital For Special Surgery in NYC  “It is important to remember that not all wrist and finger pain is CTS. In addition, not all finger numbness or tingling is CTS ”. Therefore, it is important to see a specialist to make a proper diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, if left untreated or with treatment that is not working, it is unclear how carpal tunnel syndrome will progress. It is felt that the syndrome will likely stay the same or progress in severity. It is possible that CTS will reverse on its own, but the best advice it to seek consultation by a specialist to make sure there is not something other than CTS present. They will also be able to provide a professional opinion regarding various treatment options, the risks of avoiding treatment, and to monitor the progress moving forward.


Carpal Tunnel Repair NJ is a division of Cimisurgical dedicated to the evaluation and treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. For more information or to schedule a consultation please contact us here.