Carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful condition of the wrist and hand, that can make even the most remedial of tasks extremely difficult and painful. If you work a job where you use repetitive movements for long periods of time like a computer technician or data entry worker, grocery store checker, musician, assembly line worker or carpenter you are at risk for CTS.
How do you get carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a result of pressure on the median nerve, most commonly caused by repetitive movements where gripping at an angle is involved. There is a narrow passageway on the palm side of your wrist called the carpel tunnel, which protects the median nerve. When there is persistent pressure on the median nerve, it causes pain and tingling in the wrist and hand.
What are the symptoms of Carpel tunnel syndrome?
Common symptoms of CTS include pain and discomfort in the wrist, hand and palm, tingling and numbness in your hand and fingers and overall weakness of your hand and wrist. You may notice when you grip objects such as the steering wheel or a doorknob you feel pain and tingling in your palm, this is a good indication you may have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Can I prevent Carpal tunnel syndrome?
Some of us chose occupations that require constant, repetitive movements and quitting our job isn’t an option. When that is the case, there are several things you can do to avoid CTS.
Health Concerns – You have a higher chance of getting carpal tunnel syndrome if you are overweight, have diabetes or arthritis, or are in the last couple months of pregnancy. Take extra care of yourself if any of these apply to you.
Take Frequent Breaks – One of the most important ways to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome is to take frequent breaks from your repetitive movements and let your hand and wrist rest. At least once an hour, sit still at your desk for 5-10 minutes and stretch out your fingers and hand. You should never do one repetitive movement for longer than an hour at a time.
Alternate or Change Activities – If you are able to do several different activities at work or your hobby, try to change them up every hour.
Exercise your hands and wrist – There are exercises you should do every few hours, or every hour if you can manage it that will help prevent CTS.
This sequence of exercises should be done 5-10 times a couple times a day:
Extend and stretch both wrists acutely as if they are in a hand-stand position. Hold for a count of 5.
Straighten both wrists and relax fingers.
Make a tight fist with both hands, then bend both wrists down with the fists still tight, hold for a count of 5.
Straighten both wrists and relax fingers for a count of 5.
Arrange your Work Space – You want your work space to abide by the current ergonomic guidelines. These were developed for this very reason, to avoid strain and repetitive motion injuries. It is extremely important to do your homework and find out exactly what position everything should be in, including your chair, keyboard, monitor, phone and anything else you use. This also applies to those who do crafts like needlepoint or jewelry making often.
Tips for an Ergonomic Work Space
Get the right chair – Find a desk chair that is ergonomically correct, and lets you adjust it easily. You will need to adjust it to fit to your own personal height and posture. Your feet need to lay flat on the floor, your shoulders back and posture straight. Use the armrest, as it allows your shoulders to relax.
Desk Space – Your computer monitor should be at least 20 inches away from your face, and sit directly in front of you. Your keyboard also needs to be squarely in front of you, with easy access. Lay your phone, mouse and anything else you use at an easy distance, without causing you to bend or twist in odd angles repetitively throughout your work day.
Maintain perfect posture – Your mother told you to sit up straight for a reason! Poor posture is not only bad on your back, but it causes strain in your entire body, including your wrists which can ultimately add to the pressure in your median nerve causing carpal tunnel syndrome. This can be avoided by maintaining a straight posture while working.
Treating carpal tunnel syndrome
If you were unable to avoid CTS, it is still possible to treat your condition and get relief. The treatment you receive often depends on the severity of your condition.
The first steps in treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome often include rest, immobilization of the hand and wrist by wearing a splint, and applying ice to the wrist. If you are feeling the symptoms of CTS and are pregnant due to your swollen wrists, the pain should subside once you deliver when the swelling and pressure goes down.
It is typical for many of the discomfort from CTS to go away if you stop the motions for an extended period of time, quit your job or find a different activity to do. If this is an option for you, it might be worth it to inquire about it.
Your doctor may suggest any variety of anti-inflammatory medications or vitamins (like B6) which have been known to aid in the relief of carpal tunnel syndrome.
In the most severe of cases, a surgery called carpel tunnel release may be considered. This surgery is done In order to avoid serious and permanent nerve and muscle consequences of carpal tunnel syndrome. Surgery involves severing the band of tissue around the wrist to reduce pressure on the median nerve. It can now be performed with a small diameter viewing tube, called an arthroscope, or by open wrist procedure. After carpal tunnel release, patients often undergo exercise rehabilitation.