Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition caused by repetitive motion of the hand and wrist. It can seem to come on suddenly, causing chronic pain and discomfort. However, the syndrome actually builds up over a period of time, and it may be linked to things you do in your everyday life.
Carpal tunnel syndrome doesn’t have to rule your life. Dr Shriram krishnamoorthy, MGM Healthcare discusses some of the risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome and some ways you can help prevent it from occurring.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow space on the palm side of your hand that houses your median nerve. The median nerve runs from your forearm to your wrist. When the nerve is compressed in the carpal tunnel space, the result is pain and tingling in your wrist and hand. This can make some seemingly easy tasks, such as gripping a utensil or writing something down, difficult to accomplish.
The syndrome usually begins gradually, and symptoms include weakness in your wrist, pain in your hand and the first four fingers, and numbness or tingling in your hand or wrist. You may also have decreased motor function in your thumb.
Risk factors for developing carpal tunnel syndrome
There is no one factor that contributes to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Some of the risk factors for this disease include:
• Repetitive types of work
• Inflammatory diseases
• Fluid retention
Women are also more likely to develop this condition due to generally smaller bone structure.
Though these risk factors may not directly cause carpal tunnel syndrome, they all can contribute to pressure on the median nerve, and over time cause damage to the canal.
How can you lower your risk?
Even if you don’t have any of the risk factors, you can still develop carpal tunnel syndrome through your everyday activities without even realizing it. A little planning, though, can go a long way towards preventing the problem.
If your job taxes your hands — such as IT professionals— you don’t need to quit, but you can make adjustments to put less pressure on the nerve in your wrist. For instance, if you use a keyboard and mouse frequently, try:
• Keeping the keyboard at elbow height
• Hitting the keys gently
• Making sure your mouse is comfortable for your hand or using a trackball instead
If you work with tools, some of the adjustments you can make in your daily routine include:
• Taking small breaks throughout the day
• Stretching and bending your wrists
• Relaxing your grip on the tools
• Keeping your hands warm to prevent stiffness
Another prevention measure is to sleep with your wrists in a straight position. Try wearing wrist braces to keep the wrists aligned while you sleep