Most people are familiar with the term “carpal tunnel syndrome,” although many do not know what, exactly, it is. Simply put, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is one of the most common effects of the repetitive motion associated with work. Painful and potentially debilitating, carpal tunnel syndrome should not be taken lightly, and anyone who works in an office environment should be familiar with the physical effects of CTS, their causes, and how it can be avoided.
The Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The syndrome primarily affects the hands, and has its roots in a motor disturbance in the hand’s nerves. The classic telltale signs of carpal tunnel syndrome are pain, numbness, and tingling experienced in the hands. These symptoms usually become more noticeable and more painful over time.
Other primary symptoms include:
- Particular pain in the index and middle fingers
- Wrist pain
- Weakened grip
- If untreated, certain muscles in the hand may weaken as well
If you develop any of these symptoms, it may be beneficial to seek medical treatment before they worsen.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Doctors currently are unsure what, exactly, causes carpal tunnel syndrome. However, many researchers and occupational doctors believe there is a strong link between repetitive motions (such as those associated with many forms occupational stresses) and the development of CTS. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has drafted a number of regulations regarding CTS and other similar injuries, in order to protect employees from the often serious consequences of the syndrome. Both industrial workers and office employees are potentially at risk to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Individuals working in industrial capacities are often at risk because of the repeated heavy lifting and grasping which such fields require. Office employees may be at risk because of light but repetitive motions such as typing combined with poor posture.
How Can I Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
According to some studies, the development of carpal tunnel syndrome is largely genetic, and is determined by the physical structure of the hands and their nerves. These studies have found that certain individuals have a higher proclivity to developing CTS, while others are genetically less likely to develop it.
Other research suggests that CTS may be preventable by taking proactive measures such as:
- Reducing and avoiding repetitive stress when possible
- Using ergonomic furniture and equipment, both at work and outside of it
- Taking breaks at regular intervals throughout the day
How Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?
There are a number of common treatments for CTS, including:
- Bracing and splinting the affected hand, in order to reduce the stress associated with bending and flexing the wrist
- Corticosteroid injections into the area, which can temporarily alleviate symptoms while a more long-term treatment method is devised
- Surgery, which is most often used if the pain and numbness associated with CTS is constant rather than temporary or occasional
Ultimately, treatment is necessary, and may be long-term and painful. Many believe that the best way to treat carpal tunnel syndrome is by preventing it.
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