Contributed by – Preksha Buttan
What’s the one common thing between musicians, painters, and writers? Other than being creative, these occupations require repetitive handwork. And these repetitive hand motions have been identified as one of the most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). You are at risk too if you have a similar profession. Since CTS can cause permanent numbness in your hand and affect your quality of life, it wouldn’t be wise for you to ignore it. In this article, let’s first understand what carpal tunnel is, how and why this condition develops, and what can be done about it.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
First things first – what is carpal tunnel? The carpal tunnel is a narrow tube in the wrist. It includes carpal bones which form a semi-circle and ligament that holds the tunnel together. Inside the tunnel are the median nerve and tendons. The nerve is responsible to provide feelings to your thumb and fingers, except for the little one. Tendons are rope-like structures that connect muscles in the forearm to the bones in the hand and allow the fingers and thumb to bend.
Now, coming to carpal tunnel syndrome – it is a condition that develops because of increased pressure on the median nerve. At first, you might just have numbness and tingling sensation which would go away upon shaking your hand. This is also considered as early signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. If not taken care of, the condition can cause you to gradually lose control of your hand movements.
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What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
Following are the commonly reported carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms:
- Numbness or tingling in your hand and fingers
- Pain in your wrist, arm, and forearm
- Pain that increases as you move your hand or wrist
- Trouble gripping objects
- Weakness in your thumb
- Pain and numbness that worsen at night
What are the causes and risk factors?
Doing the same hand movements over and over again often leads to carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s mostly seen in people with jobs that involve pinching or gripping with the wrist held bent. Furthermore, sleeping with curled wrists also cause CTS. Besides, genes, injuries, and certain medical conditions may also play a role. You are at a higher risk of developing CTS if any of the following conditions are true in your case:
- Family history of carpal tunnel syndrome
- Wrist fractures and deformities
- Regular use of vibrating tools
- Certain breast cancer treatments
- Hormonal changes
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Can the condition be prevented?
Considering that carpal tunnel syndrome includes so many different types of causes and risk factors, prevention may seem difficult. Nevertheless, it’s always better to do something. So, the following are some ways that may help you prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Take regular breaks – If you are a carpenter, musician, writer, gamer, or your work involves using a computer mouse for too long or anyone with jobs that involve repetitive hand movements, then you should try and take frequent breaks in between your work and rest your fingers for a bit. This gets the blood flowing back to the entire hand.
- Improve your posture – Having a correct posture at all times is anyway always recommended. While at work make sure your shoulders aren’t bent forward and your spine is not curled. Don’t bend your wrist and keep things like keyboards at elbow height.
- Keep warm – You’re more likely to develop stiffness and pain in a colder environment. So, make sure that your room temperature is warm yet comfortable. If you have no control over the temperature, then invest in good gloves to keep your wrists from freezing.
- Lose weight and treat your medical conditions – Since obesity and various medical conditions can possibly cause CTS, make sure that you resolve them. Lose weight and get the right treatment for your health issues. It will not only help you avoid CTS, but you’ll also lead a happier and healthier life.
- In the case of a family history of CTS, you need to be extra careful. If you don’t have symptoms now, it doesn’t mean they will not appear in the future. Take extra care of yourself and follow all the prevention methods religiously.
Investing in products that provide support to your wrist while at work is also something that you can do to avoid stiffness and pain. Moreover, getting regular health checkups done for conditions like arthritis and diabetes can help you prevent or manage your medical conditions that may lead to CTS.
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