One of the most widely talked about work related injuries is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). With the increased reliance on computers for most jobs and for recreation (email/games/etc), it is no wonder there is a rise in the number of repetitive strain injuries like CTS. Tasks that require holding your hands in a fixed position for long periods of time and highly repetitive manual acts involving forceful twisting of the wrist along with pinching and grasping are associated with CTS. These activities may include the use of computers, vibrating tools, sewing, cleaning, assembly work, hair styling and many other activities we do on a daily basis. Why do some people get CTS and others doing relatively the same activities do not? There are many possibilities and we’ll explore some of them now.
CTS is caused by the trapping or compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel of the wrist. When the surrounding tendons get inflamed and swelling occurs, the nerve becomes compressed in the tunnel. The resulting symptoms may include tingling, numbness, aching, burning, altered sensation, clumsiness, weakness of grip/pinch, and swelling.
CTS is most common among women aged thirty to sixty. It may affect women more often due to the increased fluid retention involved with pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome and menopause causing increased compression on the nerve. Furthermore, women tend to have smaller bone structures, possibly leaving less room for all of the tendons and nerves to pass through the tunnel in the wrist. It is also possible that chemical imbalances, emotional stress and hormonal changes make women more susceptible.
Although less in number, men get CTS, too. It is especially common among meatpackers, assembly line workers, jackhammer operators, and athletes. Regardless of gender, age, or occupation, it is important to know how to perform your job with the least stress on the hands and wrists as possible. Education about posture, positioning, handling of equipment/tools, brief rest periods and stretching should be standard at your place of employment to prevent avoidable cases of CTS. If not, you should discuss this with your employer so they can incorporate such training.
Other health problems may also contribute to developing CTS. These include rheumatoid arthritis, kidney failure, diabetes, hypothyroidism, obesity, tuberculosis, acromegaly, fungal infections, high blood pressure and gout. Smokers are also at an increased risk.
With preschoolers now using computers and with the aging population remaining in the workforce longer, more attention needs to be given to controlling repetitive strain injuries at all ages. As with all other disorders, we need to switch the focus of medicine from the “sick model,” meaning treating the symptoms after the disorder has developed, to the “well model,” meaning treating healthy individuals before the disorder develops. Preventing debilitating conditions like CTS is possible with the right knowledge and timely interventions.
Conshohocken Physical Therapy is not an ordinary Physical Therapy clinic. We believe in changing your life. We are driven by the desire to make a positive impact, both personally and therapeutically, on every person who enters our office.
You will experience pain relief, improved motion and a greater quality of life. Our approach is friendly, evidence-based and innovative and our Doctors of Physical Therapy have the most specialized training in treating your body.
Learn more about Conshohocken Physical Therapy by visiting us online at www.conshypt.com.