Carpal tunnel syndrome at work

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome results from compression of the median nerve in the wrist. The median nerve controls movement and sensation in the hand, fingers and wrist. It goes through a narrow passageway called the carpal tunnel, which is formed by the wrist bones and the transverse carpal ligament.

Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by things like repeated hand and wrist movements, pregnancy, arthritis, diabetes, obesity and hypothyroidism. It can also occur with no apparent cause.

The primary causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

Repetitive activities such as typing on a computer keyboard, using power tools or repeating hand and wrist movements can put excessive pressure on the carpal tunnel and cause inflammation of the median nerve.

Trauma to the wrist, such as a fracture or sprain, can cause inflammation or swelling of the carpal tunnel.

Hormonal changes, especially during pregnancy, can cause fluid to build up in the tissues, which can put pressure on the median nerve.

People with inflammatory arthritis, diabetes or excess weight are at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, probably due to fluid buildup in the tissues.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause various other mild or severe symptoms. Here are the most common:

  • Pain is often felt in the hand, wrist, forearm or arm, and can be described as a burning or tingling sensation.
  • People with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience numbness, tingling or pins and needles in the fingers, especially the thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger.
  • Some people may experience muscle weakness in the hand and wrist, which may affect their ability to grasp or hold objects.
  • Some may feel like their hand is swollen, even if it is not.
  • Pain and numbness may be more intense at night, disrupting sleep.
  • Some people may have difficulty performing tasks that require prolonged hand use, such as writing, using a computer mouse or driving.


Who is susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome can also occur in people who do not have any of these risk factors. However, some groups are more affected than others.

Women are about three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than men, probably due to anatomical differences. The risk of developing the syndrome increases with age, as tissues can lose their elasticity and become compressed more easily. People with a family history of carpal tunnel syndrome are also more likely to develop the condition.

People who perform repetitive hand tasks, such as factory workers, hairstylists, dressmakers or musicians, are at higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Solutions for people with carpal tunnel syndrome

If carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by repetitive tasks, you may need to change the way you do things to reduce pressure on the carpal tunnel.

Wearing a wrist splint can help reduce pressure on the carpal tunnel and relieve symptoms.

In more severe cases, physical therapy and exercise can help strengthen the muscles of the hand and wrist and improve flexibility to reduce pressure. Anti-inflammatory drugs or a cortisone injection can also reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms.

In the most severe cases, surgery to release pressure on the median nerve may be recommended.

How can carpal tunnel syndrome be prevented?

Carpal tunnel syndrome cannot always be prevented, but some things will reduce the risk of developing it.

Avoid flexing or extending your wrist excessively for long periods of time. Maintain proper posture when using your hands and wrists, keeping your arms and wrists aligned. If you perform repetitive tasks with your hands, take regular breaks to stretch and rest your muscles.


Exercises to treat carpal tunnel syndrome

Certain exercises can help strengthen the muscles of the hand and wrist, improve flexibility and prevent and relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are four of them:

  • Stretches: Gently stretch your hands and wrists, holding each stretch for about 15 to 30 seconds. Do not force them, and stop immediately if you feel pain.
  • Grips: Hold something light in your hand, like a foam ball or hand grip strengthener, and squeeze it as hard as you can. Hold for about 10 seconds and release. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times with each hand.
  • Foam ball rolls: Take a foam ball and gently roll it between your hands for a few minutes each day. This will improve blood flow in your hands and strengthen your muscles.
  • Table raises: Place your hands flat on a table. Slowly raise your palms while keeping your fingers in contact with the surface. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds, then slowly lower your palms back onto the table. Repeat 10 to 15 times.


Jobs most likely to cause carpal tunnel syndrome

Jobs that involve repetitive wrist movements, vibration, unnatural hand and wrist positions or strain can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are some examples:

  • Computer work, particularly data entry or programming
  • Factory assembly or manufacturing work, especially with vibrating tools
  • Construction trades (for example, carpentry or woodworking) that require the frequent use of hand tools such as hammers, saws and screwdrivers
  • Jobs that involve operating heavy vehicles or using repetitive hand controls


Wrist and hand orthoses to treat carpal tunnel syndrome

A wrist and hand orthosis relieves pressure on the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. It is worn around the wrist to hold the hand and wrist in a neutral position, aligned with the forearm.

There are several types of orthoses. Some are rigid, some are soft. They should be tailored to each patient for proper fit and use.


Benefits of hand and wrist orthoses

A wrist and hand orthosis does not cure carpal tunnel syndrome, but it can relieve symptoms and help improve the patient’s quality of life. This type of orthosis reduces the pain, numbness and tingling associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Wrist and hand orthoses may be worn overnight to relieve symptoms during sleep.

Wearing a wrist orthosis while working offers several benefits. It can:

  • Reduces pressure on the median nerve. This may allow you to continue working without pain or discomfort.
  • Helps you perform manual tasks better without being bothered by symptoms.
  • Avoids aggravating the condition by limiting excessive compression and further nerve damage.
  • Helps prevent repetitive stress injuries.

Four benefits of a wrist and hand orthosis at work

Make an appointment with an orthotist today!