Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve gets pinched as it passes through what’s known as the carpal tunnel, which runs from the forearm, through the wrist, to the palm of your hand. The nerve runs to the tendons that let you bend your fingers.
Common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are pain, tingling, numbness and weakness. These may occur in the fingers, thumb, hand, wrist and sometimes arm. Over time, it can lead to permanent nerve damage.
How do you get carpal tunnel syndrome?
People may suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of trauma to the wrists or even because of the natural anatomy of their wrists – they may have smaller than average carpal tunnels.
Certain medical conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, obesity and hypothyroidism, make people more susceptible to the problem.
In addition, repetitive manual work and work with tools that vibrate may cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Studies of the possible association between carpal tunnel syndrome and computer use are on-going. Many argue that the wrist posture and movements associated with prolonged use of a mouse and keyboard may either cause or contribute to the syndrome.
What can you do to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?
All the same sensible lifestyle practices that can help prevent other types of diseases and injuries may help protect you against carpal tunnel syndrome. So eat well, exercise, maintain a healthy weight and get enough rest.
If repetitive motions you perform at work are causing carpal tunnel syndrome, the most effective way to protect your wrists and hands is to stop making those repetitive motions. Obviously, this may be easier said than done. Not everyone can simply quit their jobs or ask to be reassigned to different tasks.
However, you can make some simple changes at work to reduce strain on your wrists and hands.
First and foremost, ensure that your workspace is ergonomically designed. If you work at a computer, fork out for a properly designed office chair with adjustable height and adjustable arm rests. When you type, your forearms should be supported and you should be at just the right height in relation to your desk so that your wrists don’t have to flex up or down.
If you use a mouse, it’s a good idea to buy a mouse pad with wrist support. These are widely available and inexpensive.
Whatever work you do, it’s important to take regular breaks, even if these are short. If you work with tools that vibrate, this is doubly important.
Also try to vary the range of motions you make. When possible, alternate tasks during the day so that you don’t spend several hours at a stretch repeating the same motions.
A final tip is not to wait before seeking medical attention if you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome. The sooner you start treating the problem, the less likely it is that you’ll suffer any permanent nerve damage.
Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome
Generally treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome involves rest, icing the affected area, wearing a wrist splint when you sleep and using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain. Sometimes physical therapy is also prescribed.