What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2020 | Workers' Compensation |

Working in an office is not usually considered a high-risk job. However, people who use computer equipment on a daily basis may have a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel affects the median nerve, which extends through the forearm and wrist into the hand. When the pathway surrounding this nerve, known as the carpal tunnel, becomes irritated, it puts pressure on the median nerve. Symptoms like pain and numbness often follow suit. 

While some cases are mild, other people experience debilitating effects as a result of this condition. This guide explains a few of the basics so you can seek medical treatment and prevent severe effects from occurring. 

Risk factors associated with carpal tunnel 

While further research is needed to determine the exact effects computer use has on the body, there is evidence showing that repeated use of a computer mouse can lead to repetitive stress injuries. Additionally, there is evidence showing that other professions also have a higher risk of developing it. The use of hand tools can worsen carpal pathway swelling, especially when they vibrate (such as power drills and saws). People with arthritis or other inflammatory conditions are also more likely to develop carpal tunnel, as are people with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes. 

Prevention and treatment 

If you work in an office, choose a computer mouse that feels the most comfortable in your hand. Some mice are designed for improved comfort, which may take some of the strain off your median nerve. If you regularly use hand tools, changing positions and posture is recommended to prevent repetitive stress to your wrist and forearm. Taking frequent stretching breaks is also recommended. 

Once symptoms emerge, you may be prescribed a wrist splint to stabilize your arm while you sleep. Corticosteroid injections can also be used to reduce swelling. For serious symptoms, surgery might be needed. Surgical treatment is usually only needed when conservative therapies do not provide relief.