If you are like most Americans, you spend hours a day on the computer. It seems appropriate that anyone who spends much time on the computer should be familiar with the symptoms and techniques in prevention of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The computer keyboard has been the target of blame for many patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Whether or not typing causes carpal tunnel syndrome is still controversial. Other activities such as shop working, weight lifting, and racquet sports have been associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is most common in the middle aged and elderly, with over 80% of patients over 40 years of age.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused when there is pressure in the carpal tunnel that compresses the median nerve, causing the nerve to function improperly. Because the carpal tunnel is surrounded by bone on one side, and an inflexible ligament on the other, if pressure builds, the nerve has nowhere to go. Simply put, in carpal tunnel syndrome the nerve gets squished.
When carpal tunnel syndrome occurs, the median nerve is pinched, and the normal functions are impaired. Problems that can occur in carpal tunnel syndrome include:
People can have a wide variety of carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, but the condition typically causes hand and wrist pain, weakness in specific muscles of the hand, and abnormal sensations including tingling and numbness in specific areas of the hand supplied by the pinched nerve.
The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are:
Hand and finger pain
Tingling sensations of the fingers
Numbness in the fingers
A common symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome is that people find shaking the hand often relieves these symptoms. Pain may extend up the arm, and the pain from carpal tunnel syndrome is often worst at night. Often patients find they are awakened at night, and have to shake out their hand to get the tingling in their fingers to resolve. Other activities including driving and typing can aggravate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you find yourself with any of these symptoms, a healthcare specialist will usually begin with a conservative treatment and move to a more aggressive and invasive techniques only if the symptoms of carpal tunnel persist.
The initial carpal tunnel syndrome treatment steps include anti-inflammatory medications and a wrist brace to help stabilize the carpal tunnel in its neutral position. If symptoms persist, the next step of treatment can be a cortisone injection which works about 80% of the time. There is also a surgical treatment available that is very effective called a carpal tunnel release.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is best managed in its early stages. If you feel the onset of symptoms that seem consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible and begin conservative therapy.
There are a few simple exercises that you can easily do at home or in the office to prevent these symptoms. By routinely performing these exercises to warm up the wrist joint, people often avoid the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you are going to be working with your hands for an extended period of time at the computer, you should always stretch and warm up the joint. There are also ways to maintain the joint in a wrist-neutral position, which will decrease the pressure in the carpal tunnel. A wrist brace can help keep the wrist in this position.
At the computer keyboard you can use a cushioned wrist rest, also, specially modified keyboards and computer mice are being developed and tested as alternatives to traditional equipment.