Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Whether you’re typing on a computer keyboard, working on an assembly line or around the house, daily routines that require repetitive tasks using the same fingers, hand or wrist movements increase your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). In fact, CTS accounts for more than 40 percent of all repetitive motion disorders and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers afflicted with CTS have the lengthiest absences reported for any major type of job-related injury or illness.

CTS is a familiar problem, yet few consumers actually know what it is or how to prevent it. CTS is an inflammation that causes the tissues around the median nerve, the nerve that supplies feeling to the thumb, index, long and ring fingers, to become swollen. When there is pressure on the median nerve, patients experience mild to severe discomfort.

Symptoms of CTS include:

  • Painful tingling, burning or numbness in one or both hands or wrist during the night that usually disrupts sleep
  • Feeling of uselessness in the fingers, which are sometimes described as swollen, even though little or no swelling is apparent
  • Decreased ability and power to squeeze things
  • Inability to differentiate hot from cold by touch
  • Loss of strength in fingers

If you experience any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, schedule an appointment with your doctor or a specialist for a medical evaluation. Early diagnosis and treatment can often prevent further damage and reduce your chances of having surgery to repair the damage.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends the following prevention tips during your daily professional and leisure activities:

  • Stop any activities that may cause numbness and pain in your fingers, hand or wrist. If you experience pain while performing your job duties, contact your human resources department for information about different ways to perform your job.
  • Switch hands and change positions often when you are doing repeated motions. Take breaks and rest your hands. Flex and stretch your hands and wrists before work.
  • Use correct posture.
  • Wear a wrist splint to reduce the stress on your fingers, hand or wrist if you are not able to change positions or equipment at work often enough to prevent numbness or pain.