Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common conditions seen by hand and wrist specialists around the globe, with more than 8 million cases reported worldwide every year. With symptoms that include pain, tingling and limited movement, the severity of carpal tunnel syndrome can range from mild to extremely debilitating. Patients who suffer from the condition regularly often seek professional assistance to alleviate their symptoms, and help them to reregain the full function of their hand.
About carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome, sometimes referred to as CTS, is a condition that is characterized by a range of different symptoms, which include:
- Mild to severe pain in the fingers, hand, wrist, forearm and even right up the length of the arm to the shoulder
- Unusual sensations in the fingers, hand or wrist which can include tingling, buzzing and feelings of heat or coldness
- Hands or digits that feel numb
- Feeling like your fingers, hand or wrist is weak and unable to grip or support things
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by the compression of the median nerve, which is the primary nerve that serves the wrist and hand. The purpose of the nerve is to transmit messages from the brain to this part of the body.
However, when the nerve becomes compressed, the signals that travel through it become interrupted. This is what causes the changes in sensation, weakness and discomfort that characterizes the condition.
Are we all equally at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Unfortunately, there are some groups of people who are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome during their lifetime. Factors that contribute to an increased risk of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Age. People over the age of 40 are more likely to develop CTS.
- Gender. Women are up to 3 times more likely to develop CTS. The reason for this is believed to be the fact that their slighter build means they will have smaller carpal tunnels in the first place.
- Illness. If you have previously been diagnosed with some chronic health conditions, you may also be an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel. Contributory conditions are known to include diabetes and underactive thyroid.
- Repetitive strain injury (RSI). If you have a job or recreational pastime that involves putting repeated strain on your wrist, such as tennis, golf, woodwork or typing, you are considerably more likely to suffer from CTS.
- Previous injury to the hand or wrist. Previous injuries put you at a higher risk of developing certain chronic pain disorders, like carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis.
What can I do to minimize my risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome?
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you won’t develop carpal tunnel syndrome at some point during your lifetime. However, there are steps that you can take to minimize the likelihood that you will suffer from the condition, which may prove particularly useful if you are in one of the high-risk groups mentions above.
Modifications and adaptations
Businesses are now more aware of CTS than ever before, especially those whose staff operate in such a way that they may be at increased risk of developing the condition as a result of their employment.
As such, there are a wide variety of modifications and adaptations available that will help to keep you comfortable at work and protect your digits, hands and wrists from undue stress and strain. Some of the most popular include keyboard and mouse wrist rests, desk extensions and ergonomically-adjusted computer mice.
If you work in an environment that puts you at risk of suffering from RSI, speak to your line manager, and/or HR department to see what modifications may be available to you. Alternatively, if your favorite pastime is what puts your hands or wrists under strain, check and see what support is available to prevent CTS.
Take regular breaks
Doing anything for an extended period of time can become uncomfortable. Whether you are typing, carving, painting or something else entirely, after a while the muscles and tendons in your arms, wrists and hands will become strained.
Regular rest breaks, ideally 5 to 10 minutes every hour, will give you the opportunity to stretch and relax your hands and wrists as well as your back and legs, and help you to come back refreshed, recharged and ready to work. Dr. Raskin would be happy to provide some basic hand and wrist exercises for you to follow during your rest break.
It is well known that people who suffer with pain and stiffness in their joints find that their condition worsens during the colder months. The same can be said of patients who experience CTS. However, choosing to wear fingerless gloves will help keep the majority of this extremity warm and functioning fully.
Dr. Keith Raskin has more than two decades of experience in successfully identifying and treating a variety of simple to complex hand conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome. If you would like to know more about carpal tunnel syndrome, please get in contact with our friendly, professional team. They will be delighted to assist you in regaining full and comfortable use of your fingers, hands and wrists.