Day in and day out from 8 am up to 5 pm, you are right in front of your computer, tapping your fingers on the keyboard as fast as you can just to beat the deadline of those articles that have to be done. You are working at your desk, trying to ignore the tingling or numbness you have had for months in your hand and wrist. Suddenly, a sharp, piercing pain shoots through the wrist and up your arm. ‘This maybe just a passing cramp,’ you thought to yourself as you are still feeling the ache of it. Think twice, lady because most likely you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful progressive condition caused by compression of a key nerve in the wrist. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers, as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move.
Sometimes, swelling from irritated tendons or other kinds of thickening narrows the tunnel and causes the median nerve to be compressed. The effect may be soreness, weakness, or numbness in the hand and wrist that goes up the arm. Although painful sensations may indicate other conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common and widely known of the entrapment neuropathies in which the body’s peripheral nerves are compressed or traumatized.
Did you know that women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome? You heard it right. This is not to scare the ladies out there but for awareness sake as proven by science. It is because the carpal tunnel itself may be smaller in women than in men. The dominant hand is usually affected first and produces the most severe pain. Persons with diabetes or other metabolic disorders that directly affect the body’s nerves and make them more susceptible to compression are also at high risk, but it usually appears to adults.
The danger of developing carpal tunnel syndrome is not limited to a certain demographic of people like those in a single industry such as manufacturing, sewing, finishing, cleaning, and poultry packing. Truth is, carpal tunnel syndrome is three times more common among assemblers than among data-entry personnel. A study by the Mayo Clinic found heavy computer use (up to 7 hours a day) did not increase a person’s risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
During 1998, an estimated three of every 10,000 workers lost time from work because of carpal tunnel syndrome. Half of these workers missed more than 10 days of work. The average lifetime cost of carpal tunnel syndrome, including medical bills and lost time from work, is estimated to be about $30,000 for each injured worker.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is somewhat similar to the mustard seed principle where it starts small that you hardly even notice it but can end up really big as to paralyzing those arms.