When you hear the phrase carpal tunnel syndrome, what often comes to mind is an office employee sitting at their desk typing while wearing a wrist brace.
Typing has long taken the fall as the “bad guy” but to date, there is no evidence that repetitive motions for extended periods of time actually cause carpal tunnel. This includes typing, writing, or other activities you may perform frequently.
So what does exactly does cause the weakness and reduced grip strength, numbness, tingling, and constant, worsening pain of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)?
So far, studies have not produced conclusive evidence. What we do know is that inflammation of tendons in the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway located in your wrist joint through which finger tendons and the median nerve pass, is to blame.
When tendons swell the narrowed carpal tunnel puts pressure on the median nerve, which causes the burning and tingling sensations you feel with CTS.
We also know that though a cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven, there are risk factors for CTS that increase your likelihood of developing this condition.
Risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Work-related stress on the wrists from unnatural hand positions – assembly line work, cleaning, sewing, etc
- Frequent vibration to the hands from using tools such as a chainsaw or jackhammer
- Trauma such as a sprain or fracture to the hand that causes swelling in the wrist
- Hormone-related fluid retention, most often during pregnancy or menopause
- Rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions
- A tumor or cyst in the affected area
- Congenital predisposition
Though studies have ruled out typing as a cause of CTS, if you have carpal tunnel syndrome already the added strain of repetitive wrist motion may aggravate the problem. So it can’t cause it, but can flare up symptoms.
If you have CTS, there is hope for living a normal life without the nagging pain.
Carpal tunnel surgery is typically the best treatment for severe CTS. Splinting is often the first method of treatment, and physical therapy may be used as a less-invasive option as well. When detected early, surgery may not be necessary.
An orthopedic specialist familiar with hand disorders can diagnose carpal tunnel. Your doctor will then determine the best treatment route based on severity of symptoms and the extent to which CTS interferes with your daily activities, including work.
Do you often feel a burning sensation, numbness, or tingling in your wrist(s)?
It could be carpal tunnel. Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Talkington, founder of Florida Sportsmedicine and Orthopaedics, can evaluate your hand condition and determine whether you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
After a comprehensive evaluation, he will determine the best treatment route to eliminate your pain and allow for a more complete range of motion so you can work without the constant worry of being unable to complete your tasks.