How To Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a medical condition that results from injury to Median Nerve. It is often a result of risky occupations, and understanding the occupational hazard that it presents can help in ensuring precautions that can prevent its incidence.
How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a distressing disorder that often affects one’s working hand. Resulting from the injury to median Nerve, it is often an occupational hazard that one needs to be careful about when working in industries or professions that predispose to it. It is also a condition people indulging in too much typing and computer work should know.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – An Introduction


CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME is a disorder comprising of numbness, pain and weakness of hand and fingers, which results from compression of Median Nerve in the CARPEL TUNNEL- a space between wrist bones and a ligament

over it called CARPAL LIGAMENT, through which Median nerve passes along with nine muscle tendons.

Symptoms of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

The main symptoms, i.e. numbness, pain & weakness - all result from the compression of the Median Nerve.

Median nerve provides nerve supply to two third portion of the hand on the side of the thumb and is the most important nerve for the hand and the fingers. In carpal tunnel syndrome, its compression initially leads to numbness and tingling sensation of the thumb and the two fingers adjoining it. These symptoms are typically described as "hand going asleep". As it worsens, there is weakness, inability to hold objects, and pain. The weakness and discomfort may incapacitate the person from doing any useful work with the affected hand.

Causes of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

Most often, it is not possible to identify a cause for this condition. However, many factors have been found to be associated with it. These include diseases like diabetes, thyroid deficiency and osteoarthritis.

Excess strain on wrist and repeated strain injuries (RSI) are believed to lead to this condition in most cases. Certain occupations like computer operators, carpenters, packers, musicians and mechanics are likely to be at a greater risk. Hobbies like gardening, needlework, golfing and canoeing, which can also lead to excess strain can also lead to this condition.

Prevention of Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

Since it does not have any clear and specific reason in most cases, so prevention of carpal tunnel syndrome can be best achieved by a three-pronged strategy. First is to take care of factors that can lead to it, second is to ensure an early identification of the condition so that further strain is avoided, and third is to follow the common precautionary measures suggested by experts.

1. Take Care of Factors Associated With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Three diseases found to be associated with carpal tunnel syndrome are diabetes, thyroid deficiency and osteoarthritis. The first two cause this condition by increasing the fluid content, which leads to swelling of the tendons and consequent pressure on the Median nerve. Osteoarthritis creates bony edges which damage Median nerve during movements. Taking care of these conditions by appropriate treatment can reduce the likelihood of this syndrome in patients suffering from these diseases.

Another factor associated with it is family history. It is thought that some congenital shortening of carpal ligament puts more pressure on all tendons and the nerve passing below it, leading to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Whenever history of this condition within the family is present, more care should be taken to avoid repetitive stress.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is also associated with certain occupations, and persons indulging in them should take necessary precautions to prevent this condition. These precautions consist of taking frequent breaks and relaxation of


the muscles around the wrist. In case of computer operators, certain software are now available for this purpose that remind the operator of dangers of continuous work, stop him temporarily and prompt the operator to take a break. These include 'Workrave', 'RSIbreak' and 'Xwrits', which are freely available on the Internet.

Those employed in other occupations vulnerable to this condition, like carpenters, packers, musicians and mechanics also need to follow the same strategy of taking regular breaks to prevent repetitive strain injury. In case of those working with tools, they must have tools of proper size and weight so that working with them does not cause strain or injury to the wrist. Musicians and typists should also ensure that they have a soft pad to place their wrists on during typing or percussion.

2. Early Identification of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The first symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome is always numbness and tingling of the thumb and two fingers. This should alert the person specially if there is a family history, or a disease like osteoarthritis, thyroid deficiency or diabetes, or if the occupation of the person predisposes to this condition. Thus awareness of the condition is a crucial factor in diagnosis. If it can be timely diagnosed, then further injury can be avoided by proper rest, use of wrist braces, splints or fingerless gloves. Early treatment in the form of steroid or lignocaine injections can also help in preventing the disease progression.

3. Common Precautionary Measures to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

American Association of Family Physicians prescribes many precautions at www.familydoctor.org, which include the following:

Lose weight if you're overweight.
If you do the same tasks with your hands over and over, try not to bend, extend or twist your hands for long periods.
Don't work with your arms too close or too far from your body.
Switch hands during work tasks.
Make sure your tools aren't too big for your hands.
Don't sit or stand in the same position all day.
If you use a keyboard a lot, adjust the height of your chair so that your forearms are level with your keyboard and you don't have to flex your wrists to type.

All these measures prevent injury to tendons lying within the carpal tunnel and also prevent exaggeration of injury that has already occurred. That, in short, is the only effective strategy for preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Reference:

1. American Academy of Family Physicians, "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Pain in Your Hands and Wrists", familydoctor.org [online]. Available at url: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/ pain/disorders/023.printerview.html
 



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