Does your wrist hurt or go numb sometimes? You might be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. You are not alone. According to compiled information from a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study in 2018, carpal tunnel syndrome is the third most common type of work-related injuries.
A 2010 study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine said that those who are in the office and do administrative support are among those who are more at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Other occupations include being in production and personal care and service.
All told, it is a condition that needs to be addressed right away. While carpal tunnel syndrome is not fatal, it can lead to complete, irreversible median nerve damage. If left untreated, it comes with consequent severe loss of hand function.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerve, which runs from your forearm through a passageway in your wrist to your hand, is compressed. According to Mayoclinic.org, the median nerve is responsible for providing sensation to the palm side of your thumb and fingers, except the little finger. It also provides nerve signals to move the muscles around the base of your thumb (motor function).
There are studies that link mouse and mousepad activities aggravates the median nerve but there is more to it than meets the eye. Here are some risk factors that lead to this condition:
- Prior injuries -- A wrist fracture or dislocation might affect the bones in the wrist. When the space within the carpal tunnel is affected, there might be excessive pressure on the median nerve.
- Congenital predisposition -- This article from John Hopkins Medicine noted that people who were born with smaller carpal tunnels may be more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome. If it runs in the family medical history, you are more likely to get it too.
- Sex -- According to an article from the Office on Women’s Health, women are three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men. It further noted that it may be that the wrist bones are naturally smaller in most women, creating a tighter space through which the nerves and tendons must pass.
- Health conditions -- A writeup from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website said that the carpal tunnel syndrome can stem from hormonal changes from pregnancy as well as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance.
- Workplace situation -- According to the same article, hours-long repetitive hand and wrist motions may aggravate the tendons in the wrist, causing swelling that puts pressure on the nerve. Likewise, doing activities that involve unnatural hand and wrist positions can increase pressure on the nerve.
How do I prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?
Luckily, you can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by doing a series of changes on how you use your wrists. It is best to consult your doctor if you feel any pain on your wrists, but here are some tips that might also help:
- Activity changes -- If you think that your workstation can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, you can buy a sit-stand desk so you can improve your posture by standing more and sitting less. Modern ergonomic products are designed to give you better access to your gadgets so your body stays in a neutral position. This way, you can avoid the condition or stop it from worsening over time. When it comes to office workstations, you have to be mindful of ergonomics so you can keep your body in great physical condition.
- Wearing a splint or brace -- If you already feel the onset of carpal tunnel, you can wear a brace or splint to keep the wrist in a straight or neutral position. This will reduce the pressure on the median nerve. You can wear this at night and during the day -- depends on your situation and symptoms.
- Exercises -- Ask your doctor for specific exercises that help the median nerve move more freely within the confines of the carpal tunnel. You can do some of these stretches for pain relief.
Get checked right away
Carpal tunnel syndrome is no joke. If you don’t get it checked, it might lead to more disconcerting health-related work losses. Hand stretches are great but you can also consult a healthcare professional before things get out of hand.