Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

A health problem that affects the hand and wrist, this condition (or syndrome) has become the focus of much attention due to suggestions that it may be linked to activities that require repetitive use of the hands, such as typing. Actually there are many people who develop this condition regardless of the type of work they do.

In the forearm, ligaments connecting several bones form the perimeter of a passage through their center. This passage, called the carpal tunnel, contains nerves, tendons, blood, and other soft tissues. For a variety of reasons, some of these soft tissues swell (especially the tendons and the protective sheaths that cover them). Overuse, injury, repetitive strain injury (RSI), friction, fractures, fluid retention, forceful movements, and infection are a few of the more common causes. However, unlike swelling in other parts of the body, which simply causes a protrusion, swelling inside the carpal tunnel has no place to expand. It is encircled by bones and ligaments. Consequently, because the swelling is contained, pressure builds in the tunnel. This pressure then crushes the main nerve to your hand (called the Median Nerve), preventing it from functioning properly. The pressure also obstructs blood flow, which retards healing and causes further cell degeneration. The usual symptoms are: fatigue, pain, weakness, loss of dexterity, stiffness, cramping, numbness, cold, burning, or tingling sensations. These symptoms can even strike during rest.

A common test for CTS is Phalen's Maneuver: Put the backs of your hands together while keeping your arms parallel to the floor and your fingers pointing down. Hold your hands together firmly. If within a minute you experience one or a combination of the symptoms, you probably have some degree of CTS. Don't hold this position for more than the required minute.

See also : ergonomics  
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