You’ve likely felt it – a
tingling sensation or pain through your hand after typing on a keyboard all
day. Many people who work at desk jobs and spend large amounts of time on
computers are often wary of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. But how do you know
that what you’re feeling is actually carpal tunnel syndrome? There are many
factors that go into diagnosing this condition, and it’s important to know if
you’re at risk or not.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that affects more than 3 million
Americans each year. It’s caused by pressure on the median nerve, which runs
through a small passageway between your forearm and hand. Pressure on the nerve
causes a squeezing effect that results in annoying and uncomfortable sensations
in the hand. The median nerve signals affect feeling in the hand, as well as
motor function in the muscles around the base of the thumb.
While this condition is common,
it can cause serious complications if not properly treated. Anyone can
experience carpal tunnel pain, but some people are more prone to developing
this condition than others.
Let’s take a closer look at
a few of the associated risk factors.
1. Anatomic factors
Carpal tunnel syndrome is
generally more common in women. This may be because the carpal tunnel area is
relatively smaller in women than in men. Women who have carpal tunnel syndrome
may also have smaller carpal tunnels than women who don’t have the condition.
Obesity, menopause, and pregnancy are additional risk factors women may face
resulting in an irritated median nerve.
A wrist fracture or
dislocation, or arthritis that deforms the small bones in the wrist, can also
alter the space within the carpal tunnel and put pressure on the median nerve.
2. Workplace factors
If you work with vibrating
tools or on an assembly line that requires prolonged or repetitive flexing of
the wrist, you need to be aware of creating harmful pressure on the median
nerve and avoid worsening existing nerve damage. Alternate tasks when possible.
This is especially important if you use equipment that requires you to exert a
great amount of force.
For those who work in
offices, make sure that your computer mouse is comfortable and doesn’t strain
your wrist. Gently stretch and bend hands and wrists periodically. You’re more
likely to develop hand pain and stiffness if you work in a cold environment. If
you can’t control the temperature at work, put on fingerless gloves that keep
your hands and wrists warm.
3. Medical conditions related to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Some chronic illnesses,
such as diabetes, increase your risk of nerve damage, including damage to your
median nerve. Illnesses that are characterized by inflammation, such as
rheumatoid arthritis, can further affect the lining around the tendons in your
wrist and put pressure on your median nerve.
If you have an existing
medical condition that puts you at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, it’s
crucial to pay close attention to any numbness, tingling, or weakness you might
be experiencing in your wrist or hand.
If some of these risk
factors apply to you, it could be time to seek advice from a healthcare professional. You might not feel pain right now, but the symptoms of
carpal tunnel syndrome can start small and worsen with time. The Campbell
Clinic team of experienced hand specialists can accurately detect carpal tunnel
syndrome and relieve your symptoms before it’s too late.