Carpal tunnel syndrome may not seem like the end of the world — a nerve has become entrapped in your wrist — but it can be very uncomfortable and impair the movement in one of your hands, which is no small thing. In fact, one study found that cases of carpal tunnel syndrome due to occupation led to an average of 27 missed work days.
Now consider that carpal tunnel syndrome affects between 3% and 6% of the adult population, and you want to know how to protect yourself against this common problem.
The first step is to understand your risks for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and, as the team here at Advanced Spine Care and Pain Management will explain, some of these risks are within your control to change, but others not so much.
What’s behind carpal tunnel syndrome?
Before we dive into the risks, it’s a good idea to quickly review carpal tunnel syndrome basics. Your carpal tunnel is a small opening on the underside of your wrist that’s formed by carpal bones and ligaments.
Despite its small size — about an inch wide — your carpal tunnel is a busy and crowded one. This small space provides passage for nine flexor tendons that control the movements in your fingers, as well as your median nerve, which services all of your fingers except your pinkie.
CTS is a nerve entrapment issue in which inflammation inside this small space presses up against the median nerve, which can lead to pain, numbness, and weakness in your hand.
Knowing your risks
As we discussed earlier, there are different risks for CTS, some of which you can control, but you have little-to-no influence over others.
Let’s start with the latter — risk factors that are out of your control. To start, women are three times more likely to develop CTS than men. Experts believe this is because the space is smaller in womens’ wrists and fluctuations in reproductive hormones may also influence the condition. This explains why pregnancy and menopause are listed among the risk factors for CTS.
Another issue may be that you’re genetically predisposed to CTS, regardless of gender.
Now let’s get to the major risk factors that you can address — repetitive movement. CTS is very common among people who use their wrists to make the same movement over and over, such as working on an assembly line or knitting as a hobby. With this repetitive use, you can develop inflammation inside your carpal tunnel that entraps the median nerve.
Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome
While it may not always be possible to avoid CTS, you can take steps to protect your wrists, especially if you fall into one of the risk categories we outline above.
These steps include:
- Ensuring that your wrists are straight, even while you sleep
- Taking frequent breaks to shake out your wrists during repetitive use
- Wearing a brace to support and position your wrist better
- Practicing nerve gliding exercises
As experts in carpal tunnel syndrome, we’re happy to sit down with you to come up with a customized plan for avoiding this nerve entrapment issue.
For more information about carpal tunnel syndrome, please contact us at one of our offices in Staten Island or Hartsdale, New York, to schedule a consultation.