Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
About ten years ago, when I worked as a programmer at IBM, my wrists began to get very sore and painful. Every night I had to come home and ice them down to ease the pain and swelling. The doctor said it was Carpal Tunnel, and I would need drugs, therapy and perhaps surgery to treat it. But I had another plan in mind…
What is Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the result of a compressed nerve at the wrist. This nerve, called the median nerve, delivers sensations to the thumb and all fingers except the pinkie. The Carpal Tunnel is actually the passageway of bones and ligaments of the wrist where the median nerve passes through. When this nerve is compressed, it may result in numbing sensations or even pain. It can be debilitating, depending on the severity of the compression.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may include pain, tingling, and numbness. Some people experience a lack of grip strength, or a burning sensation in the area of the wrist and hand. People with severe cases may experience the inability to sense hot and cold, and may loose muscle in the thumb.
Why Does Carpal Tunnel Happen?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be the result of long periods of time with your wrist and arm being compressed or positioned in the same way. It could also be the result of an injury occurring at the same location. Sleeping with your wrists flexed, using a mouse and keyboard without rest, or falling and landing on your wrists might result in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Repeatedly doing the same thing, over and over, and without rest, can result in injury to the wrist and hand in many various other ways, but one of the most serious is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Women are known to be more susceptible to this injury than men, though it might be because the arms and the nerves are smaller. The workers at biggest risk are assembly line workers who do repeated tasks over and over, typists and data entry personnel. If you spend a lot of time at a computer you should take steps to avoid this injury.
This potentially debilitating injury can be avoided. Those who work in an environment that requires long periods of using a cash register or computer, picking up and putting down a telephone, or anything that causes repeated strain on the forearms and wrists should be careful to take plenty of breaks. Five minutes every half hour can save you from a lot of pain later on. All it takes is a little time to flex and then relax the muscles in your wrists.
Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Treatment, if caught early on, includes a lot of rest. Doctors recommend up to two weeks of relaxing the wrist before getting back to work. You should see a doctor immediately when you feel symptoms, as severe cases might require surgery. Some surgical procedures can help, but it is used a last resort. You also want to make sure that diabetes or arthritis isn't playing a factor, and to treat those first if they are. Several types of drugs are often given for patients who catch it early, which will help decrease swelling and reduce pain. Exercise and alternative methods of treatment, like acupuncture and massage therapy, has also been recommended.
You may remember that in the beginning of this article, my doctor prescribed drugs, therapy and surgery to treat my carpal tunnel. That was unacceptable to me, so I immediately bought one of those ergonomic keyboards that are split or angled so your hands rest more naturally on the keys. It took a week or so to get used to it, but my symptoms disappeared almost completely! On a standard keyboard, you are forced to rotate your wrists outward, which puts more pressure on the carpal tunnel area. The cushioned palm rest and the special shape of the ergonomic keyboard helps you position your wrist and fingers to minimize that pressure and repetitive stress.
It's been more than ten years, and I only have trouble when I use a regular keyboard, or do something stupid like swinging a sledge hammer. The keyboard I use now is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. The Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 is another design with a curved key layout. It's similar to the Ergo 4000, but doesn't have all the ergonomic features. You might find it easier to get used to, though, since the keys are positioned more like a traditional keyboard. An ergonomic mouse, such as Perific's Wireless Dual Mouse can help too. Use of these devices can be a big help, but don't depend on them alone. Instead, continue to take breaks and relax when you can.
More information about Carpal Tunnel symptoms and treatments can be found at these sites:
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 6 Apr 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Posted: 6 Apr 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved