If you are spending several hours a day on the keyboard, either because of your job as an editor, a writer, a secretary, a document controller or a member of DOTA professional team, you may have heard of the disease called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. But how serious is it, and what can you do about it?
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a disorder that causes pain and weakness in the hand and wrist. CTS develops from problems in a nerve in the wrist — not the muscles, as some people believe. The symptoms of CTS can range from mild to INCAPACITATING.”
“The condition occurs when one of the major nerves to the hand — the median nerve — is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist,” according to American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
The median nerve, together with tendons that flex your fingers, can be found in the carpal tunnel (a passageway made of bones and ligaments in the palm side of your wrist).
Most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome are caused by a combination of factors such as:
- repetitive hand use
- hand and wrist position
- health conditions (e.g. injury, diabetes, obesity, arthritis)
- environmental factors (e.g. smoking, alcohol abuse)
If you are constantly experiencing pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm, there’s a chance that you already have it.
As stated by UMMC, symptoms often develop as follows:
- Initial symptoms include pain in the wrist and palm side of the hand. Problems commonly occur in both hands. (Even when only one hand is painful, the other hand often shows signs of nerve conduction abnormalities when tested.)
- Early on, the patient also usually reports numbness, tingling, burning, or some combination of symptoms on the palm side of the index, middle, and ring fingers. (Typically the fifth finger has no symptoms.) Such sensations may radiate to the forearm or shoulder.
- Over time, the hand may become numb, and patients may lose the ability to feel heat and cold. Patients may experience a sense of weakness and a tendency to drop things.
- Patients may feel that their hands are swollen even though there is no visible swelling. This symptom may actually prove to be an important indicator of greater CTS severity.
If diagnosed and treated early, the symptoms of CTS can often be relieved without surgery. Nonsurgical treatments may include bracing or splinting and taking prescribed drugs.
If nonsurgical treatment does not relieve the symptoms after a period of time, the doctor may recommend surgery.
In long-standing cases with constant numbness and wasting of the thumb muscles, surgery may be recommended to prevent IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE.
But why go to the stage of treatment if you can prevent it now? After all, prevention is always better than cure.
Simple prevention tips include:
- Maintaining a good posture
- Taking rest periods
- Choosing ergonomic furniture
- Picking user friendly and comfortable keyboard and mouse
- Using wrist rests if available
- Performing the simple exercises mentioned below for 4 – 5 minutes every hour as advised by The University of the Maryland Medical Center: