Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder of the wrist and hand. It is not a new condition -- a product of the information technology age, born from long hours of computer keyboarding. Evidence of people experiencing signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome occurs in medical records dating back to the beginning of the 20th century.

Contents

Why should I be aware of this?

  • Your daily activities might enhance the risk of being affected by carpal tunnel syndrome. If that is the case you can take some precautions and do some exercises to reduce the risk.
  • For most people who develop carpal tunnel syndrome, proper treatment usually can relieve the pain and numbness and restore normal use of the wrists and hands.
  • People with smaller wrists are at higher risk for CTS.

All about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist. It is on the same side as the palm. This tunnel protects a main nerve to the hand and nine tendons that bend the fingers.

When we bend the wrist at right angles, as we need to do to perform most tasks, the carpal tunnel becomes much narrower. When the wrist is bent for prolonged periods of time – like when one is typing for long , it compresses the median nerve. When the wrist is bent at right angles for long periods of time repeatedly, pressure placed on the nerve produces the numbness, pain and, eventually, hand weakness that characterize carpal tunnel syndrome.

Who does it affect?

Doing the same hand movements over and over can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. It is most common in people whose jobs require pinching or gripping with the wrist held bent. People at risk include

  • People who use computers
  • Carpenters
  • Grocery checkers
  • Assembly-line workers
  • Meat packers
  • Musicians and
  • Mechanics.

Some hobbies can also give rise to these symptoms.

  • Gardening
  • Needlework
  • Golfing and
  • Canoeing

Carpal tunnel syndrome is also seen in cases of --

  • Wrist injury or a fracture of the wrist.
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Thyroid disease
  • Last few months of pregnancy.

Symptoms

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome starts with frequent burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb and the index and middle fingers. The symptoms often first appear in one or both hands during the night, since many people sleep with flexed wrists. The symptoms include:

  • Pain, numbness, or tingling in the hand and wrist, especially in the thumb, index and middle fingers
  • Increased pain with increased use of the hand, such as while driving or reading the newspaper
  • Increased pain at night
  • Weak grip and tendency to drop objects held in the hand
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Muscle weakness

Risks

  • Women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, perhaps because the carpal tunnel itself may be smaller in women than in men. The dominant hand is usually affected first and produces the most severe pain.
  • Persons with diabetes or other metabolic disorders that directly affect the body's nerves and make them more susceptible to compression are also at high risk.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome usually occurs only in adults.

Treatment

  • visit a doctor who might suggest treatment options such as wrist splinting, medications and surgery.

What can I do?

  • Wear a wrist splint at night
  • Avoid sleeping on your hands

Preventive measures

  • Try minimising the force used while performing your tasks. Contrary to what we think, most tasks require less force than we apply.
  • If you have to write for long hours, use a big pen with an oversized, soft grip adapter and free-flowing ink.
  • Take frequent breaks and bend and stretch your wrists.
  • If you use a keyboard, keep it at elbow height or slightly lower.
  • Improve your posture.
  • Keep your hands warm. You're more likely to develop hand pain and stiffness if you work in a cold environment.

CopperBytes

  • The popular belief that excessive computer use causes painful carpal tunnel syndrome is being contradicted by experts at Harvard Medical School. According to them, even as much as seven hours a day of tapping on a computer keyboard won't increase your risk of this disabling disorder.[1]
  • Research shows that long commutes and use of cell phones while driving can cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.[2]
  • Presently, 25% of all computer operators have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Only 23% of patients were able to return to their previous professions following surgery. [3]
  • According to National Center for Health Statistics, USA, Carpal tunnel syndrome results in the highest number of days lost among all work related injuries. Almost half of the carpal tunnel cases result in 31 days or more of work loss.[3]

References

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet
  • What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Source

  1. Computer Use Deleted As Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Cause: More Common In Assembly Line Work:ScienceDaily
  2. Long Commutes, Cell Phones While Driving Can Cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:ScienceDaily
  3. 3.0 3.1 National & International Statistics for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Repetitive Strain Injuries of the Upper Extremity