August 11, 2015
For most of us, the workplace is where we spend most of our days, regularly carrying out the tasks that are essential to our current occupation. Unfortunately, certain professions require tasks that include specific motions performed repeatedly on the wrist and hands, which over time can lead to a painful condition called carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
The carpal tunnel is a space at the base of the palm that contains a number of tendons and the median nerve, which provides sensation to most of our fingers. When these tendons thicken or swell for any reason, this tunnel narrows, which compresses the median nerve and causes CTS. Symptoms of CTS start with burning or tingling but will eventually include pain, weakness or numbness in the hand and wrist, and radiates up the arm.
CTS is a fairly common condition that affects approximately 5% of the population. The greatest risk factor for developing CTS is performing any task that requires repetitive hand motion, awkward hand positions, strong gripping, mechanical stress on the palms or vibration. CTS can therefore occur in any line of work in which one or more of these components are present. Though office work and repetitive typing may be a potential cause of CTS, the most common professions in which the disorder occurs are those with assembly-line work such as manufacturing, sewing, baking or cleaning.
If you already work a job with a high risk for CTS, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing CTS:
- Practice good workplace ergonomics: in the office, this means keeping the keyboard directly in front of you, close by, and at a height so your shoulders are relaxed, elbows slightly bent, and wrist and hands straight
- Keep your wrists straight when using tools and also while sleeping
- Try to avoid flexing and extending your digits and wrists repeatedly
- Minimize repetitive, strong grasping with the wrist in a flexed position
- Take frequent breaks to rest your hands and wrists
If you’ve already started noticing symptoms of CTS that may be making it more difficult for you to carry out your job, additional treatment may be necessary, and physical therapy can help. At CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services, we treat CTS as follows:
- Education on how to change wrist position, proper back and neck posture, safe use of tools and encouragement to take stretch breaks during daily routines
- Exercises to increase the strength of muscles in the hand, fingers, and forearm
- Stretching to increase flexibility of the wrist, hand and fingers
- Use of heat and cold therapy to reduce pain
- Recommendations to wear anti-vibration gloves and how to alter other activities
Working certain jobs may increase your chances of developing CTS, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. Follow these tips, and for additional help, visit CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services for carpal tunnel syndrome treatment in Glenn Dale, Bowie, Laurel, Hyattsville or Parkville, MD. Call us at 301-853-0093 for more information or to schedule an appointment.