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Are you working most of the day with computer? Do you feel tingling or numbness in your wrist for months? And then a stabbing pain? It is very likely you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Nothing unusual for your kind of work.
However, some people think that carpal tunnel syndrome is the disease of the information technology age. This is not true! Evidence of people experiencing signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome date back to the beginning of 20th century. 

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

First, let explain what is carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a narrow and  rigid passageway of ligament and bones at the base of the hand that houses the median nerve and tendons- it is about as big as your thumb. Carpal tunnel is located at the on the palm side of your wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition that occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. Although painful sensations may indicate many other conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common and widely known neuropathies in which the body's peripheral nerves are compressed or traumatized. If some sort of pressure is placed on the nerve, or if swelling occurs or something similar, the nerve reacts with numbness and pain in the hand and wrist, which may radiate up the arm, and eventually, hand weakness that is also one of characteristics of carpal tunnel syndrome.    
Most often carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by repetitive motion, injury, or inflammatory types of arthritis.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, as with many other diseases start gradually. There is frequent burning, tingling, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers. This is particularly typical for thumb, the index or middle finger. People, suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome say their fingers feel swollen, although they do not show any signs of swelling. 
But these are just onset symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. When  carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms tend to worsen, people feel tingling all the time, and their grip strength decreases. People suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome cannot form a fist, grasp small objects or perform other manual tasks. In worst cases, when muscles at the base of the thumb waste away, which is chronic (or untreated) form of carpal tunnel syndrome, people are unable to tell between hot and cold by touch.

Treatments available for carpal tunnel syndrome

There are differences of course in carpal tunnel syndrome treatments. People with mild symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may ease their numbness or discomfort by taking more frequent breaks by resting their hands, or by applying cold ice packs if swelling occurs. 
But very often these techniques do not help. In cases like that treatment options include wrist splinting, medications or even surgery. But let's not over-react, most people, suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome experience effective treatment with nonsurgical methods, including:
  • Wrist splinting:  Try wearing a wrist splint at night and avoid sleeping on your hands to help ease the pain or numbness in your wrists and hands. But be careful: the splint should be snug but not tight. Besides, splinting is more likely to help you if you've had only mild to moderate symptoms for less than a year. If your problems persist, see your doctor.     
  • Some people find nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) helpful. However, it is more likely that they will help if you have an associated inflammatory condition. If not, NSAIDs are unlikely to help relieve your symptoms.     
  • Doctor may inject your carpal tunnel with a corticosteroid, which also decrease inflammation, and relieve pressure on the median nerve. On the other hand, oral corticosteroids aren't as effective as corticosteroid injections for treating carpal tunnel syndrome.  

As said above, nonsurgical treatments are effective if you have mild symptoms. But when pain and other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are present, surgery is the only solution to end problems.
There are several techniques accepted, but in all accepted surgical procedures, surgeon cuts the ligament pressing on the nerve.
We will not go into details about surgical procedures, but surgery does mark improvement: more than 70% of patients undergoing surgery are completely or very satisfied with the outcome of their surgery.

Prevention of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

It is important to notice that there are no proven strategies to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. In order to act preventive, it is essential to protect your hands. In order to do this take following steps:
  • Relax your grip and reduce the force you're using. For example, if using keyboard- hit the keys softly; if writing, use pen with free-flowing pen. 
  • Take breaks whenever you need them. For example, every 20 minutes (or sooner if you feel like) take a break. Stretch your hands and wrists. Physical and other workers often work with equipment that vibrates- it is even more important to take break, especially if dealing with great amount of force.  
  • Be careful when positioning hands and wrist. You should avoid bending hands in wrist all the way up or down- middle position is the best.
  • Improve your posture. If you have incorrect posture, it is more likely you will roll your shoulders forward. When shoulders are in this position, it is more likely your neck and shoulder muscles will be shortened and they will be  compressing nerves in your neck, which will also influence your wrists, fingers and hands.
  • This may sound like a grandma's advice, but keep your hands warm. It is actually rather simple: it is more likely to develop hand pain and stiffness if you work in a cold environment. 
At the workplace, workers can: take frequent rest breaks, perform stretching exercises, wear splints to keep wrists straight, use correct posture and wrist position. 
Jobs that include greater wrist or hand utilization, can rotate among workers.

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