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Carpal Tunnel

By Chris Stroh, OT, CHT
Colquitt Regional Medical Center Rehabilitation Services   

 In today’s fast paced world our hands are responsible for a variety of tasks.  We rely on our hands to help us with our daily living skills (feeding, dressing, cooking, household chores, etc), work/employment skills and leisure skills.  Due to all the actions hands are responsible for they are prone to repetitive stress injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is one of the most common types of repetitive stress injuries reported.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by compression of the median nerve at the wrist.  Symptoms usually start gradually with frequent burning, tingling, itching or numbness in the palm of the hand and fingers.  Symptoms often first appear at night due to sleeping with wrists in a flexed position.  As symptoms worsen, tingling may become more frequent during the day, you might experience pain in your wrist, palm, forearm, decreased grip strength and trouble gripping/pinching objects.

People at risk include those who use computers, carpenters, check-out clerks, assembly line workers, musicians and anyone who performs repetitive grasping/pinching tasks.

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome includes immobilization of the wrist with a splint/brace, avoiding activities that worsen symptoms, massaging the area, performing stretching exercises and placing cold packs on your wrist.  In some instances injections and/or surgery may be required; this is to be determined by your physician.

Tips for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome:

1) Lose weight if  you’re overweight
2) Treat underlying diseases (diabetes, arthritis, fluid retention) 
3) Take breaks from repetitive hand motions.