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Reduce risk for carpal tunnel syndrome

As any office worker knows, the repetitive strain of typing can prove painful from time to time. For millions of people across the globe, that pain has led to carpal tunnel syndrome, a nerve compression disorder of the upper extremity that many people find develops after prolonged periods of typing on a keyboard.

While many people first learned of carpal tunnel syndrome when computers became de rigueur in the workplace, the disorder can actually be caused by any number of activities that aggravate the structures of the carpal tunnel, or the passageway in the wrist that’s made up of the eight arching carpal bones in the wrist and the ligament connecting the pillars of the arch.

Learning about carpal tunnel syndrome can help reduce a person’s risk of chronic carpal tunnel, which can take years to recover from.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Numbness in the fingers, particularly at night, is often the first sign that a person notices. Many with carpal tunnel syndrome have described this as their fingers “falling asleep” at night, which is then followed by waking up in the morning with numbness or tingling in the hands.

Because it’s common to assume carpal tunnel syndrome only affects the hands, many people mistakenly feel additional pain beyond the hands must be the result of something other than carpal tunnel syndrome. However, feelings of numbness and burning pain in the forearm and as far as the shoulder might be indicative of carpal tunnel syndrome. If left untreated, the symptoms will begin to appear during the daytime and are likely to grow more severe the longer the pain and numbness is ignored.

Severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

If carpal tunnel syndrome has become severe, that means the irritation around the median nerve has become chronic, compressing and pushing continuously against the ligament above it. That median nerve can eventually deteriorate if it’s continually constricted. That slows the nerve impulses, which can rob the fingers of feeling and even lead to a loss of strength and coordination at the base of the thumb, even resulting in permanent muscle tissue deterioration.

Risk Factors

There are conditions that make a person more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome. People with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or metabolic conditions like thyroid disease are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. That’s because each of these conditions directly affects the nerves thereby increasing a person’s vulnerability to carpal tunnel syndrome. Pregnant women may also develop carpal tunnel syndrome but such cases typically subside within a few months of delivery.

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated in a number of ways, including making a lifestyle change that adjusts how a person performs the repetitive motion that likely led to the condition.

Medication to treat carpal tunnel is available, as doctors might prescribe short-term anti-inflammatory drugs or inject steroids into the wrist to reduce swelling. Such injections are most effective when performed on patients with mild carpal tunnel syndrome.

Doctors will also likely want to immobilize the wrist once carpal tunnel syndrome has been diagnosed. A splint to support the wrist in a comfortable position and worn overnight helps many patients reduce pain and get a better night’s sleep.

Often a last resort, surgery can even be performed to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. During surgery, the ligament will be cut, which often proves very effective at relieving pain.

Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome focuses largely on taking care of the wrists. Sleeping with wrists straight, possibly in a splint, and keeping the wrists straight when using tools is an effective prevention method. Conditioning and stretching exercises are also effective prevention techniques

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