Digging into anything and everything that makes the CNMI tick beyond politics...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome

YOU are busy typing away on your keyboard, trying to beat the daily deadline that has become a part of your everyday life. Suddenly, a sharp, piercing pain shoots from your wrist and up to your arm.

Or maybe, you have been experiencing a numbing, tingling or weak feeling from your wrist and up your arm while typing on your keyboard or doing computer editing work for months.
You may think it is just a passing cramp, and you spend more time playing online games, harvesting your virtual farms or enlarging your islands and cities on Facebook as soon as you get home from a day of typing work and never stop until you fall asleep in front of your computer. Don’t take the feeling for granted because the risk is high that you may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Excessive mouse usage is one of the most common factors that contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health website defines carpal tunnel syndrome as a painful progressive condition caused by compression of a key nerve in the wrist.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when your median nerve, the nerve which runs from your forearm into the hand is squeezed or pressed. This syndrome is common among people whose work involves repetitive motions such as sewing, driving, assembly line work, painting, writing, the use of tools that vibrate, and even those who play musical instruments.
The carpal tunnel is a very narrow area in your wrist where the nerve enters your hand, and any swelling caused by pressure or squeezing can cause pain, tingling or numbness.
The National Institutes of Health said  this condition mostly occurs in people 30 to 60 years old, with the risk three times more in women, and the dominant hand gets affected first. This means if you are right handed, you can more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome in your right wrist and hand first.
A number of medical problems are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. These include bone fractures and arthritis of the wrist, diabetes, alcoholism, hypothyroidism, kidney failure and dialysis, obesity, menopause, premenstrual syndrome and pregnancy, infections, and rheumatoid arthritis.
You may be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome if you are feeling any or all of the following:
• A numb or tingling sensation in your thumb, in two or three fingers or in the palm, in one or both hands.
• Pain in your wrist or hand that extends to the elbow
• Weak grip, weakness or having difficulty in carrying things, such as bags
• Difficulty in forming a fist or grasping small objects
• Having problems with the coordination of your fingers in one or both hands
• Feeling of wanting to shake out your hand and fingers upon waking up 
• Tingling sensation during the day
• In severe cases, you may find it hard to tell between hot and cold by touch
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated with medications, injections or by surgery but it takes months before a full healing.
You can also try wearing a splint at night for a few weeks, and during the day if necessary. Hot and cold compress on your wrists is also recommended, and avoid sleeping on your wrists. This is application especially to individuals for whom sleeping with their head cradled in their wrists may be a favorite position.
You can also try exercises and warm up stretches to relax your palm and wrists.
If you are typing or editing in your computer every day, you can use devices such as special keyboards, mouse and keyboard drawers, keyboard trays, typing pads, and other ergonomic aids.
You can also use a wrist rest, a soft cushion which you can buy for a few dollars to reduce the stress on your wrist.
Check if your keyboard is of the right position. Your keyboard should be low enough so your wrists are not bent upward as you type.
Lift your wrists as you type. Some of us may get too lazy and type with the wrists resting on the table.
Take frequent breaks while typing, and stop if you feel any tingling or pain in your wrist or arm.
As much as you can, try to avoid or reduce the repetitive movements of your hands. Check out tools that are designed to reduce wrist injury.
If the pain or tingling feeling lasts for days, see your doctor.
Prevention is better than cure, and don’t wait until everything is too late before you resort to preventive measures. You’ve only got two wrists and hands and you can’t afford to lose them. Everything else can wait.
For more information, check out http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. (published HERE)