Mar 18, 2014

Posted by in General, Occupational Health, Orthopedics, Rehabiltiation | 0 Comments

Ouch–my wrist!

carpal-tunnel

Early in my career, I worked closely with people who primarily wrote for a web site. One of these co-workers came in at one point with a brace on her wrist. Since then, I’ve always thought that people who work on a computer all day are more susceptible to getting carpal tunnel. Apparently, as with many things, I was wrong. Dr. Matthew Doty, occupational health physician, recently wrote an article about this topic. Here is some of the information he shared:

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of a nerve in the wrist. This compression occurs when tissues surrounding the tendons become swollen. The carpal tunnel is a fairly narrow passageway located on the palm side of the wrist, and when squeezed can cause various symptoms.

Symptoms generally start gradually with an aching in the wrist. Later, symptoms of numbness or tingling to the fingers, particularly the thumb, index and middle finger occur. Weakened grip and dropping of objects may occur as well. Severe cases may even cause muscles at the base of the thumb to waste away.

There is a combination of factors that result in carpal tunnel syndrome. Women are three times more likely to develop it, likely because the tunnel itself is narrower in women. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also associated with obesity, pregnancy and menopause. Workplace factors such as working with vibrating tools or repetitive flexing of the wrist may play a role. Perhaps surprising, there is no evidence to support use of a keyboard with the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Wrist splinting at night or at work to keep the wrists from flexing can be helpful. Ergonomic changes evaluated by an occupational or physical therapist at work can also lead to improvement. There are also medications that can decrease pain and inflammation.

If symptoms persist, an orthopedic referral is needed. Options may include steroid injection or surgery. Fortunately, most cases resolve without surgical intervention.

When I think back on the people I know who have had carpal tunnel, they are mostly women. Pretty interesting really. If some of these symptoms sound familiar to you, be sure to discuss it with your provider.

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