Carpal tunnel syndrome is an injury due to stress. It happens when pressure on the median nerve and tendons that travel through the carpal tunnel (a passage in your arm). You feel the injury as you flex your fingers. The carpal tunnel can cause pain, numbness and tingling, even with minor swelling.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include:
- Tingling or numbness. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may notice numbness and tingling in your hand or fingers. The most affected fingers are the thumb and index, the ring fingers, and the middle fingers- but not your little finger. The sensation may even feel like an electric shock.
The feeling may extend from your wrist up your arm. The symptoms can appear while you’re driving or just reading a publication. They may cause you to wake from your sleep. Many people try to shake out the feelings. The numbness feeling may last a long time.
- Weakness. You may not be able to grasp or hold onto objects – due to numbness or weakness. The inability to hold objects may also be due to the pinching muscles of the thumb.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome. The median nerve “provides 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).”
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be due to anything that irritates or squeezes the median nerve. A fractured wrist can also cause the carpal tunnel to narrow. Rheumatoid arthritis is another cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. Often, there is no one singular cause. A combination of factors may cause he disorder.
What are the risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome?
Many factors increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome though they may not cause the disorder. These risk factors include:
- Anatomical factors. Examples include a fractured wrist, a dislocation of the wrist, or arthritis. These conditions can change the space within the carpal tunnel or place pressure on the median nerve.
- If you have a smaller carpal tunnel than others, you’re more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Gender. Women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
- Nerve-damaging conditions. “Some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, increase your risk of nerve damage, including damage to your median nerve.”
- Inflammation. Inflammation, due to rheumatoid arthritis or other causes can place pressure on the median nerve and affect the tendon linings around the wrist
- Medications. “Some studies have shown a link between carpal tunnel syndrome and the use of anastrozole (Arimidex), a drug used to treat breast cancer.”
- Obesity. Being overweight is a risk factor
- Changes in bodily fluids. Fluid retention can irritate the median nerve and “increase the pressure within your carpal tunnel.” Bodily fluid changes often occur during menopause and pregnancy. The good news is that once the delivery is complete, the mother usually feels better.
- Other medical disorders. Examples include kidney failure, lymphedema, thyroid disorders, and menopause. Some diseases such as a tumor or diabetes can also increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Of particular note, is that workplace conditions are a known risk factor. Examples include:
- Working with tools that vibrate
- Working on an assembly line which requires repetitive wrist flexing or prolonged wrist flexing – which can place pressure on the median nerve or affect existing nerve damage.
- Age. Older people are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than younger people
- Trauma. An injury increases the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
“Several studies have evaluated whether there is an association between computer use and carpal tunnel syndrome. Some evidence suggests that it is mouse use, and not the use of a keyboard, that may be the problem. However, there has not been enough quality and consistent evidence to support extensive computer use as a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome, although it may cause a different form of hand pain.”
Are there ways to prevent or reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Some of the ways to reduce stress on your wrists and hands include:
- Use a relaxed grip. Reduce your force. If, for example, you use a computer or a cash register – try to hit the keys or numbers a little softer. If you write with a pen,, try using a large pen that has a large soft grip adapter – and ink that flows freely.
- Take more breaks. During breaks – stretch and bend your hands and wrists. Try to alternate tasks – especially if you use equipment that vibrates like a jackhammer. A few minutes’ break every hour can make a large difference.
- Watch your form. Try not to bend your wrist – all the way up or down. Use a relaxed position where possible. “Keep your keyboard at elbow height or slightly lower.”
- Improve your posture. “Incorrect posture rolls shoulders forward, shortening your neck and shoulder muscles and compressing nerves in your neck. This can affect your wrists, fingers and hands, and can cause neck pain.”
- Make sure you have a comfortable computer mouse.
You should also avoid working where it’s cold. If you can’t control the cold/heat, try using fingerless gloves. They may help.
What types of jobs are most at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome?
Some that we’ve mentioned include computer work or keyboard work, assembly line work, and using a cash register. Other risky jobs include:
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Construction work – such as a jackhammer
- Driving a car or truck
- Cafeteria work
- Food processing
- Restaurant workers
- Mechanical work with hand tools
North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer Joe Miller Esq. has helped thousands of injured workers obtain their full work injury benefits. He’ll fight to show your carpal tunnel syndrome is compensable under state workers’ compensation laws. He’ll work to show how much medical care and time off you need.To speak with an experienced work injury attorney, call North Carolina and Virginia lawyer Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or fill out my online contact form to make an appointment or feel free to utilize our new online case evaluation form.