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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by Bryan Williams

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition when the median nerve is compressed by inflammation of the tendons or other swelling in the wrist. Some of the effects can range from tingling of the hand, sharp pain in the wrist and not being able to grasp small objects.  Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by repetitive motion injury, heredity, or an impact injury to the wrist.  Women are three times more susceptible to carpal tunnel, probably because they have a smaller carpal tunnel than males.

Since computers are more prominent in everyday life, carpal tunnel has become more and more of a problem in the US. American citizens are spending more of their workday and personal time sitting at a computer without taking a break from using their keyboard and mouse.  People need to think about how many hours a day they spend on a computer compared to what they did fifteen years ago, when carpal tunnel wasn’t much of a problem.  For example, I spend around 8 to 10 hours a day on the computer, compared to not even owning one fifteen years ago.

To help combat the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome, there are some simple precautions that people can take.  First, they can shorten the amount of time sitting at a computer without a break.  For instance, when I was writing this paper; after an hour I put my laptop down and played with my dog for about ten minutes.  This helped, as it allowed me a break from doing the same repetitive motion of typing for a long period of time.  Second, purchasing a properly fitting computer desk and task chair is important.  A correct desk and chair setup should minimize pressure on the wrist and allow a person to sit up straight.  Third, the use of different shaped computer mice that are comfortable, can help to alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome. This allows one to change the repetitive motion ever so slightly and give certain tendons and ligaments in the wrist a break throughout the day.  The last precaution would be to use a program on your computer, such as Workrave.  It simply reminds you to take a break for a few minutes, or a micro-break for a few seconds.

If these precautions do not alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome, as an option instead of surgery, a doctor might prescribe an injection of a corticosteroid, physical therapy and/or possibly acupuncture as an alternative therapy.  If none of these precautions or treatments work, then surgery would be the last resort.  The options are open release surgery and endoscopic surgery.  Open release surgery is when the surgeon makes a 2-inch incision in the wrist and cuts the carpal ligament, which should enlarge the carpal tunnel.  Endoscopic surgery has a faster recovery time, but requires two incisions to complete the procedure.  The surgeon makes a ½ inch incision in the palm and wrist, and then uses a scope to help make the cut to the carpal ligament.

With increasing repetitive motion injuries at work, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, computer users have to become more diligent taking preventive measures to decrease the likelihood of this type of injury.  As the saying goes “ An ounce of prevention, is worth more than a pound of cure.”  Taking preventive measures for carpal tunnel syndrome decreases financial setbacks from missing work, financial costs to the company’s people work for, and limits insurance claims, which ultimately increases insurance premiums.





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