Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder of the median nerve function due to chronic compression. Repetitive activities such as long hours typing on a computer keyboard contribute to the development of this condition. Research shows that women are up to 3 times more likely to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is considered to be an occupational disease affecting people who perform monotonous wrist extensor and flexor movements. This category includes computer users, pianists, percussionists, and sign language interpreters, among others. Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome can include a variety of factors that cause constriction, swelling or fluid retention within the carpal tunnel. These include diabetes, obesity, hormonal changes, kidney failure, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism, or Paget’s disease.
How does carpal tunnel syndrome manifest itself? In the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome pain occurs at night. People who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome complain of a tingling sensation in the hand that extends from the wrist to the thumb. During the day it is felt in the region of the index and middle finger, and sometimes also in the heart. Wrist pain initially radiates to the forearm and shoulder. In the next stage, it appears also during everyday activities, such as typing on the computer, washing dishes or carrying shopping. It is accompanied by a decrease in manual dexterity when performing activities that require precision, such as peeling vegetables or putting on makeup. In the advanced stage of carpal tunnel syndrome we deal with weakened grip, problems with clenching fists and releasing objects from hands. In addition, numbness may also occur in the area innervated by the median nerve.
How to effectively prevent carpal tunnel syndrome? First of all, it is a good idea to ensure that your hands are in the correct position, for example when working on a computer. When typing on the keyboard the angle of bending the arm at the elbow should be 90 degrees. When using a mouse, the wrist must be straight and should lie on the desk, as far as possible from its edge. It is best if the chair or armchair you are using is equipped with armrests. A wrist rest can also be helpful.
What can we do if we suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome? It may be helpful to perform the set of exercises described below. One exercise involves bringing the hands together in front of the chest, pressing the fingertips together with the fingers and tilting the hands right and left. Another exercise is to bring your hands up, clench your fists, and spread your fingers apart. The next suggestion is to join your hands together and gradually move your fingers away from each other – starting with the small ones. Another exercise that works to treat carpal tunnel syndrome is stretching the hands forward and rotating the forearms side to side and inward. You can also press your elbows against your sides, point your palms forward and gradually bend and straighten your fingers. Each exercise should be repeated 5 times.
If the above exercises prove ineffective, carpal tunnel surgery will be necessary. The operation is performed under local anesthesia to remove the cause of the compression. The surgery is performed using either the classic or endoscopic method.
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