There are many people in the world who have jobs that force them to use their hands in a repetitive manner. For many years this fact has been blamed for a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome. Apparently this blame has been misdirected.
We have in our wrist a passageway called a carpal tunnel which is literally a tunnel that is a passageway for several tendons as well as a very important nerve called the median nerve. A tendon is a tough cord that attaches muscles to the bones they move.
The median nerve controls all fingers but the little one and also controls some hand movements.
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome start as a tingling or numbness in the hand or wrist. Further there may be burning, tingling, and a swollen feeling, a pain shooting up the arm, cramping in the hand and disrupted sleep among other things.
If repeated hand movements doesn’t cause carpal tunnel syndrome what does?
There are several things that can create carpal tunnel syndrome. Really, our wrists seem to be able to take care of themselves when it comes to repetitive jobs. However the tendons can be made to swell from an injury or infection. This swelling can put pressure on the tendon and median nerve which causes pain as well as dysfunction.
Other causes can be secondary to other medical conditions such as diabetes and arthritis.
The key danger with carpal tunnel syndrome is that if it isn’t treated quickly permanent damage can occur to the median nerve, irreparable damage.
The presence of carpal tunnel syndrome can be determined a number of ways; X-Rays, tapping on the wrist and lab tests all can determine the presence of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome consists (in mild cases) of physical therapy. When cases are more severe it may be necessary to take oral steroids or even have steroids injected at the site. It may be necessary to wear a hand brace.
Of course before anything can be done the underlying conditions such as arthritis or diabetes have to be dealt with if any exist.
In a “worst-case” scenario a person will have to undergo surgery.
Carpal tunnel syndrome surgery involves cutting the ligaments around the carpal tunnel to relieve pressure on the median nerve.
Surgery should be considered if symptoms last over six-months.
Certainly a job that requires repetitive motion can aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome but should not be considered the primary cause because a more serious cause may be overlooked.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is very common. It is important to have it diagnosed early and that means it is important to keep a regular eye on your overall health.
“Are Your Wrists at Risks?” Fact Sheet Page 3, NIH News in Health, July 2008