Wrist problems at work – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

We have taken up writing this article on CTS (wrist problem) because almost 90% of employees in organizations have to work on computers for a few hours in a typical working day and they can take precautions after reading this article before the real trouble starts.

‘A’ is working at his desk in the computer, trying to ignore the tingly numbing sensation he had for months in his hand and wrist. Suddenly, a sharp, piercing pain shoots through the wrist and up his arm. He is worried whether it is just a passing cramp and comes to know it is not just that ‘passing’.

Repetitive movements performed in the course of normal work or leisure may also contribute to this condition. However, there is no absolute clinical data to support this belief.

It has however been proven that this condition is more common in people who work in manufacturing, sewing, finishing, cleaning, poultry, fish packing jobs — jobs that involve using the hands. Hence, people working the keyboard too are vulnerable.

The pain in the wrists and arms must be attended before it gets out of hand even disabling one from his job temporarily.

Finally on rushing to the doctor he diagnoses it as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Something that sounds that complex has to mean it is serious, life threatening condition.

Relax! CTS is a medical term another for “pain in the hand”.

What is CTS?

Carpal Tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, gets compressed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm-side of the thumb and fingers (although not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move.

The Carpal Tunnel — a narrow, rigid passageway of ligaments and bones at the base of the hand — houses the median nerve as well as tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the median nerve to be compressed. This compression causes CTS.

Know the symptoms: The symptoms of CTS usually are pain or even itchiness on the palm-side of the hand. One reason for this condition is that the Carpal Tunnel is simply smaller in certain people. Women are three times more likely than men to develop CTS, perhaps because women have smaller Carpal tunnels than men.

Injury to the wrist that causes swelling, sprain or fracture, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis etc, could all be contributing factors to developing this condition.

Get handy: The treatment for CTS usually involves the icing the affected area to reduce pain and swelling and resting the affected hand and wrist for at least two weeks by avoiding activities that may worsen the symptoms. Even immobilizing the wrist in a splint to avoid further damage from twisting or bending may be an option. Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs may help reduce symptoms as well. After the symptoms have decreased, stretching and strengthening exercises prescribed by a physical therapist may be used to prevent re-occurrence.

While not enough information exists on this condition, normal healthy work station practices such as taking frequent breaks, using correct posture and rest position, etc, may help reduce this and other painful workplace related syndromes.

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