If you work at a computer using a keyboard for many hours a day, you may be at risk for RSD, or repetitive stress disorder. RSD is caused by the continuous and repetitive overuse of a particular muscle, nerve or joint. This disorder manifests itself in a variety of illnesses including carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, tennis elbow, bursitis and more. Using a keyboard puts your arm, wrist and hand in danger of carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful and debilitating condition.
Your wrist contains a passageway, about the size of your index finger, that is composed of ligaments, bones and nerves. Pressure on this passageway affects the median nerve, and pain, numbness and tingling result. Often, by the time you are feeling the symptoms, the damage has already been done. The median nerve controls the palm and fingers, all of which help you to flex and grip, key movements in daily life such as driving and carrying.
While it varies from person to person, common symptoms are:
- Pain and numbness of the wrist and palms.
- Hot poker type pain in the wrist.
- Shooting pains up the arm.
- Sensations of swelling, but with no noticeable swelling observed.
- Increased pain at night.
- Burning sensations.
- Itching of the palm and fingers.
- As the disorder progresses, decreased grip and wasting of the thumb muscles.
In the initial stages, resting the wrist for several weeks and application of cold packs may alleviate the symptoms. Sometimes a splint may be placed on the wrist to reduce movement. NSAIDs (naproxen sodium, Advil) can be effective at reducing the inflammation and your doctor may also use corticosteroids injections directly into the carpel tunnel.
Surprisingly, yoga has been found to help carpel tunnel syndrome by alleviating pain and increasing the grip. Participants in the study practiced yoga for eight weeks and concentrated on stretching the upper body. It should be emphasized that poses that involve the wrist, especially where the body weight is resting on the wrist, should be strenuously avoided and that you must consult with your doctor before attempting yoga posses.
If the above treatments are not effective, surgery may be needed. The surgeon will sever the ligament, releasing it and reducing the pressure on the nerve. The hope is that the ligament will heal, but leave room in the tunnel to reduce the impact on the median nerve. Physical therapy will follow, but weakness is common and it's unlikely that you can return to the same work that caused the injury.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be prevented by following these tips:
- Take frequent breaks.
- Use stretching exercises.
- Wear a splint to support your wrist.
If you have reason to believe that your carpal tunnel syndrome is work-related, contact a workers compensation attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will work to get you the compensation you deserve if you are no longer able to work due to carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive stress injuries.