Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common condition in which there is pain, tingling, burning, and numbness along the thumb, index, middle and half of the ring finger. This condition begins gradually and the symptoms are intermittent at first. If left untreated, the condition progresses resulting in frequent or persistent symptoms. In severe or advanced cases, there is wasting of muscles at the base of the thumb resulting in reduced grip strength and inability to grasp objects. It usually affects people over 30 yrs of age and is more commonly seen in females.
WHAT CAUSES CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME? It is caused due to compression of a major nerve of the hand called the Median Nerve near the wrist. It is caused due to prolonged repetitive movements of the hand and the wrist (use of mouse and keyboard), persistent use of vibrating tools, extreme positions of the wrist for long periods, heredity, wrist fractures, alcoholism, and obesity. Conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hypothyroidism, Diabetes, and pregnancy can also cause CTS.
TREATMENT OF CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME: In the early stages, measures like use of a wrist brace, ergonomic adjustments, avoidance or modification of activities that cause symptoms, and anti-inflammatory medications may be sufficient. Steroid injections can also help improve symptoms, but its effect is usually temporary. If conservative treatment measures fail or in severe or advanced cases, surgery to decompress the Median Nerve may be recommended.
IMPACT OF CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME: Persistent or frequent symptoms can be frustrating and affect daily activities at home and work. Nighttime symptoms can interfere with sleep. Treatment during the early stages can help slow or stop the progression of this condition. Surgery may be required in advanced or severe cases. If the nerve damage has become irreversible, recovery may not be complete even after surgery.
CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME AND SMARTPHONES: Obsessive tapping, scrolling, and swiping on your smartphone can increase the risk of hand/wrist problems. A recent study published in the Muscle and Nerve Journal reported that – intensive users (>5 hours/day) of handheld electronic devices experienced significantly greater wrist/ hand pain. They concluded that overuse of these devices may adversely affect the Median Nerve in the Carpal Tunnel resulting in symptoms. While it is still debatable whether the overuse of smartphones results in CTS, findings of this study suggest that they should be used wisely.