Health with Dr. Paula: Carpal tunnel syndrome

Health with Dr. Paula: Carpal tunnel syndrome

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Many Americans in our current "Information Age" use computer keyboards on a daily basis.. but this can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

So what exactly is carpal tunnel? Dr. Paula Walker King from Columbus State University stopped by the morning show to explain what it is.

Carpal tunnel is when the median nerve in the wrist supplies feeling and movement to the "thumb side" of the hand (the palm, thumb, index finger, middle finger, and thumb side of the ring finger).

The area in your wrist where the nerve enters the hand is called the carpal tunnel.

This carpal tunnel is normally narrow, so any swelling can pinch the nerve and cause pain, numbness, tingling or weakness. This constellation of symptoms is called carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is often the result of a combination of factors that increase pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel, rather than a problem with the nerve itself.

  • Most likely the disorder is due to a congenital predisposition - the carpal tunnel is simply smaller in some people than in others e.g. women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, perhaps because the carpal tunnel itself may be smaller in women than in men.
  • Repetitive use or injury, as seen with frequent typing/computer usage

What are the other symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome? Carpal tunnel syndrome is common in people who perform repetitive motions of the hand and wrist.

Typing on a computer keyboard is probably the most common cause of carpal tunnel. Other causes include:

  • Sewing
  • Driving
  • Assembly line work
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Use of tools (especially hand tools or tools that vibrate)
  • Sports such as racquetball or handball
  • Playing some musical instruments

5. What is the treatment?

You may try wearing a splint at night for several weeks. If this does not help, you may need to try wearing the splint during the day.

  • Avoid sleeping on your wrists.
  • Hot and cold compresses may also be recommended
  • Occupational therapy may be beneficial
  • Medications used in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Corticosteroid injections, given into the carpal tunnel area, may relieve symptoms for a period of time.
  • There are many changes you can make in the workplace to reduce the stress on your wrist: special ergonomically designed keyboards, a different type of mouse, ergonomically designed mouse pads, and keyboard drawers.

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