A Typist's Worst Fear: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition in which the nerve that runs down the forearm, called the median nerve, is compressed at the wrist. This causes tingling, numbness, nighttime wakening, pain, coldness and sometimes weakness in parts of the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in women than it is in men and although it can occur at any age, it has a peak incidence for those around age 50.

Carpal tunnel syndrome may first present symptoms when the sufferer is trying to sleep. Symptoms of the condition may include paresthesia, which is a burning and tingling in the fingers particularly by the thumb and index and middle fingers, numbness, difficulty gripping and making a fist, dropping objects and weakness. The symptoms may progress if they are left untreated, causing an increase in pain and weakness, which can further restrict hand function. Many carpal tunnel sufferers often mistakenly blame the tingling and numbness that they are feeling on their sleeping position, believing that they are simply experiencing restricted circulation that has caused the hand to "fall asleep."

Most cases of Carpal tunnel syndrome are idiopathic, meaning that they do not have a designated cause and many who have the condition have symptoms that gradually increase over time. One common factor among those who develop it is increased hand use or activity, particularly repetitive activities though the correlation is often unclear. Physiology and family history may play a role in developing the condition.
There are several different ways to treat a patient with Carpal tunnel syndrome. One way is using a brace or splint to keep the wrist straight. During this time, patients are told to modify their activities for the two to six weeks recommended for wearing the brace. In addition to the brace or splint, they are given non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The downside of the reduced use of the wrist or hand is muscle atrophy, which can develop. They can also be limiting and uncomfortable to wear.
Another way to treat Carpal tunnel syndrome is through physiotherapy. This treatment includes a deep friction massage to help the swelling that is causing the nerve compression or ultrasonic therapy, which is most effective when used with other physiotherapy treatments. Localized steroid injections have also proven to be effective in providing temporary relief, though surgery is usually required to give most patients a long-term relief. Sufferers are also urged to avoid activities that can put repetitive stress on their hands. They are not encouraged to give up activity completely, however, but rather to frequently rest the hand to avoid aggravating it. Dietary changes and medication can also provide the body with necessary nutrients and supplements that are needed to repair the damaged nerves and help reduce inflammation. Vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin B complex, amino acids and hypercium are recommended. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen or Naproxen can be useful in controlling symptoms while pain relievers such as Tylenol will only help with the pain.

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