If you’ve noticed pain in the wrist and forearm, or numbness and tingling in your hands, it’s possible that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Although there are a number of excellent options for carpal tunnel treatment, it’s important to understand how you developed this condition in the first place. Who’s at risk for developing carpal tunnel, and what actions can you take to minimize the symptoms?
The Effects of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Having a better understanding of the physical stressors that lead to carpal tunnel syndrome in the first place can shed more light on why some people seem to be at a higher risk. The carpal tunnel runs from the wrist to the hand, and is home to the median nerve. Hand tendons also travel through the carpal tunnel. Since the tunnel passageway is quite narrow, it takes very little tendon inflammation to compress the median nerve. This nerve compression is what’s responsible for causing the feelings of pain, numbness and tingling. If left untreated, weakness can develop as well.
Treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome begin with preventative measures and extra physical support, such as using a wrist brace or taking over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen to alleviate inflammation. In some cases, your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections to decrease swelling and inflammation. For some men and women, hand surgery be a solution to release the nerve pressure and relieve pain.
Looking at Risk Factors
One of the risk factors for developing carpal tunnel syndrome is being female. Looking at the numbers, approximately three percent of women and two percent of men will end up with a carpal tunnel diagnosis at some point in their life. This may be due to the fact that women have a narrower carpal tunnel. Hormones may also play a factor.
Another risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome is related to age. The average age of those with carpal tunnel syndrome is 48, although diagnosis becomes more common over the age of 55. An accurate estimate of how many people are affected by carpal tunnel syndrome is difficult, since some people with symptoms show normal test results, while others have tests that do indicate carpal tunnel syndrome yet aren’t bothered by symptoms.
Lifestyle and Occupation
Lifestyle factors play a major part in the development of carpal tunnel syndrome as well. Research shows that the higher body mass that’s associated with obesity may affect the speed of nerve flow into the hand, directly impacting the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Additionally, since poor physical fitness is another high risk factor, those who are overweight are at an increased risk for this reason as well.
Occupation definitely has an impact on carpal tunnel syndrome. Jobs that require repetitive hand and wrist motions are particularly susceptible to wrist strain like carpal tunnel syndrome. Examples include workers in the meat and fish packing industries, as well as musicians and laborers. In general, blue-collar jobs that involve more physical activity place workers at a higher risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, including welding, working with sheet metal and automotive work.
Although there is much discussion about the potential for developing carpal tunnel syndrome as the result of long days at the computer, a definitive connection between keyboard use and carpal tunnel syndrome has yet to be made.