Carpal tunnel syndrome is frequently associated with the age of computers due to the sudden increase in the number of people typing for long periods and due to the new configuration of keyboards. This painful nerve disorder is most often attributed to repetitive motion that puts pressure on the median nerve that goes through the carpal tunnel on its way from a forearm arm to one of your hands.
If you catch carpal tunnel early enough, it is possible to relieve pain and avoid further damage by holding your wrists at the proper angle when you type, which generally means raising your wrists higher when you type. Before computers came around, typists developed carpal tunnel on occasion, but typewriters were vertically tiered, making it more natural for the typist to hold their wrists in the correct position.
Changing position does not always relieve carpal tunnel syndrome, although you can buy a pad that is placed in front of your keyboard in a manner that holds your wrists higher. You should consult a doctor or a physical therapist before the condition grows worse, however.
What is Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel is damage to the median nerve due to pressure or repeated pinching placed on the nerve. Patients typically feel this syndrome through tingling fingers, numbness in hands or fingers, and a burning type of pain in the wrist.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel
While repetitive motion is often the cause of carpal tunnel, there are metabolic diseases that can raise someone’s risk of carpal tunnel or create carpal tunnel syndrome in the absence of repetitive motion. Possible causes include:
Diagnosis begins with a discussion of your symptoms with a qualified physician. The doctor will then do a thorough study of your hand and fingers to test range of motion and pain. The tests may include having the patient bend their wrists. Delicate probes will be used to see if the patient can feel soft touches.
The doctor will also look for signs of muscle atrophy or cramping. If swelling has occurred, the wrist may look discolored and swollen, and it could feel warm to the touch. Also, the doctor may hand you a glass of warm or cold water to test your sensitivity to temperature. Persons with carpal tunnel often have difficulty sensing hot and cold with their fingers or hands.
Persons with carpal tunnel also lose strength and flexibility in their hands, causing them to develop “the dropsies.” If you find yourself dropping objects you formerly held with confidence, make an appointment to have that checked out.
There are several options for treating carpal tunnel if it is caught early that can mitigate the pain or allow your median nerve time to heal on its own. It is important to intervene early, however, before the syndrome develops into a chronic condition. Treatment options for early stages of carpal tunnel include:
- Wearing a splint or a brace on your wrist
- Avoiding the repetitive motion for a while to give the nerve time to heal
- Wearing a cast to stabilize the wrist
- Physical therapy – including changing position while you type
- Chiropractic intervention
- Pain management
If the carpal tunnel becomes chronic or severely disabling, surgery may be tried to correct the problem. The most common surgery performed for carpal tunnel syndrome is called a carpal tunnel release. It involves cutting the band of tissue that surrounds the tunnel, which then relieves the pressure or pinching on that nerve. It takes up to three months to fully heal from this type of surgery.