We hear the words 'Carpal Tunnel Syndrome' more and more nowadays as people spend too much time on their computers, laptops and texting or mailing on their mobile phones. CTS is a common lifestyle ailment affecting millions of Indians every year, and taking proper precautions is mandatory for everyone who wants to avoid it.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome refers to a condition where there is pain, tingling or numbness in the hands or the fingers caused because of an inflammation of the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a narrow, rigid channel of bone and ligaments situated at the base of the hand. When this tunnel becomes inflamed, it compresses the median nerve, which comes from the spine and passes through this narrow tunnel. Since the median nerve controls the impulses in the palm, thumb and the first three fingers, compression of this nerve ends up causing pain, weakness, tingling, and numbness in the fingers, hand, wrist and even the arm.
The most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome nowadays is spending time at the computer or any other keyboard in a manner that puts repetitive stress on the wrists. However, this is not the only factor that leads to CTS. It can be caused by any kind of repetitive stress on the wrist like that caused by knitting, sewing, needlepoint, regular use of vibrating tools, constant driving, and golf or racquet sports. Trauma or injury to the wrist may also lead to CTS. In some cases, one may suffer from passive CTS because of fluid retention, obesity, hypothyroidism, diabetes, smoking, work stress, mechanical problems of the wrist joint, arthritis or pregnancy.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can become a lifelong or chronic condition or it may become serious enough to require surgery if it is not treated well in time. Since it can be easily avoided, the best way of saving oneself from CTS and its related complications is to incorporate workplace and lifestyle changes that will prevent it.
Exercise: Regular exercise that involves stretching is one of the best ways of preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. There are many yoga asanas that increase blood circulation to the carpal tunnel, thus preventing swelling. A number of exercises that are specially formulated for the wrists and the arms can be found online.
Get An Ergonomically Designed Workstation: Your workstation should promote a healthy posture where your spine is straight and your feet touch the ground comfortably. Your keyboard should be such that your arms remain at the same level or slightly higher than your wrists. The wrist and arm should always form a straight line.
Be Good To Your Hands: Instead of putting too much stress on one hand, keep switching hands when working as much as possible so as to evenly distribute stress. Also, do not hold objects too tightly and use the strength of your whole hands, and not just your fingers, when holding things.
Always Maintain Correct Posture: Slouching can permanently damage your spine, neck and shoulders, leading to arm and wrist pain. Always sit or stand as if there is an imaginary thread pulling your head straight up from the ground.
Take Regular Breaks: If you are involved in an activity where you need to put constant stress on the wrist, then taking regular breaks is necessary to let your wrist rest and for normal circulation to take place.
Raise Your Hands: Raising your hands above your head at least two to three times a day for a few minutes will let accumulated fluids in your wrists move out of the area. Since these fluids may cause increased pressure in the carpal tunnel, this simple exercise can save you from wrist and arm pain.
Keep Your Hands Warm: People who constantly have cold hands are more likely to suffer from CTS. If you normally have cold hands, then wear fingerless gloves to warm up your hands and improve the circulation in your wrist and hands.
Take Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is associated with nerve function, and most people with CTS are found to be deficient in this vitamin. Many people often get immense relief from CTS simply with the administration of B6. You can ask your doctor about the right amount of B6 to take in order to avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Remember that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, though extremely prevalent, is also easily preventable. Following the precautions given above will not only help you avoid CTS, but also keep your hands healthy and happy in the long run.