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Thursday, September 13, 2012

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Untreated carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a nerve injury that disables the hand. The carpal (wrist) tunnel consists of bones and the transverse carpal ligament. The median nerve runs from the neck down to the fingers and passes through the tunnel. When the nerve is pressed against the carpal bone, it becomes injured, causing pain and numbness in the index and middle fingers and weakness of the thumb.

CTS is common among people who use their hands for prolonged periods of time like textile and assembly line workers, computer users and those working with power tools, example jack hammer.

  • Tangling burning sensation that leads to numbness or pain, from the wrist to the thumb and fingers.
  • Swelling of the wrist and hand.
  • Pain in the wrist at night.
  • Pain in the forearm.
  • Weakened grip.

  • Repetitive hand motion.
  • Prolonged hand use.
  • Poor wrist position.
  • Physical injuries:
    • wrist injury resulting in tendon swelling or bone protrusion into the tunnel
    • neck injury resulting in swelling of the median nerve
  • Other medical conditions example rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes melitus.

What you can do
  • Rest your hands for several days if swelling is slight and if hand movement is still possible.
  • See your doctor at once if symptoms persist, to avoid permanent injury.

What your doctor can do for you
  • Conduct a physical examination to establish the cause of pain and numbness. He may inquire on your health history and nature of work.
  • Recommend an x-ray of your wrist.
  • Prescribe anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications.
  • Recommend immobilization through the use of splint.
  • Perform surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve. The procedure involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament. A recently developed technique involves inserting a balloon catheter into the wrist to stretch and expand hand ligaments, relieving pressure on the nerve.

Prevention tips
  • Exercise hands, wrists and fingers in between long hours of repetitive work.
  • Rest your dominant hand whenever possible. When using vibrating tools, that is the sander or jackhammer for extended periods, take frequent breaks and when possible, operate the tool at the speed with least vibration.
  • Maintain a neutral position while working to avoid straining the body. Adjust work position and accessories if needed.
  •  Use tools and workstations that have been ergonomically redesigned to cause less stress on the body.
  • Avoid flexing too far from the joint.
  •  Exercise regularly to condition the body.
  • Pay attention to early warning signs of CTS. Ensure preventive and immediate self-care action to avoid permanent damage.
Check out the video below to learn some of the exercises you can do for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.


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