Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is the condition whereby people start to experience tingling and numbness of the hands. CTS is caused by an overgrown ligament at the base of the thumb-side of the hand, which compresses the nerve and results in a sore thumb joint (among other symptoms). People with carpal tunnel will experience tingling and numbing sensations, but only in the first three digits of their hands (thumb, forefinger, and middle finger). These carpal tunnel symptoms can sometimes cause restless sleep in more severe cases, with some sufferers waking up at night due to these sensations and shaking their hands out to regain feeling that does not always fully return.
CTS is usually caused by the performance of highly repetitive motions. Traditionally, sufferers of CTS would be people operating heavy machinery and working with highly repetitive motions on assembly lines. However, increasingly, our modern way of living is seeing an increase in sufferers of CTS outside these types of jobs. The proliferation of digital devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones in both professional and social capacities has led to increasing cases of carpal tunnel among people from a wider variety of occupations.
The swiping, typing and gaming movements used with phones and computers require our fingers to stretch and flex to unnatural positions. With heavy repetition over time, these actions can lead to swollen tendons in the carpal tunnel, resulting in median nerve pressure. Continued pressure on the median nerve can lead to carpal tunnel down the line.
CTS can be treated in many ways. Simple splinting at night can go a long way to give the median nerve the rest that it needs to recover from the swelling and inflammation. If detected early and treatment sought quickly, CTS may resolve without surgery or other medical attention beyond a splint. If surgery is needed, the operation is minimally invasive and recovery time is relatively quick. Even some surgeons who have had the condition themselves have returned to practice after only 12 days post-surgery. Carpal tunnel is treatable, and surgery is not something to be afraid of.
Since technology is clearly here to stay, it will be imperative for us to look at ways to prevent CTS. There are several ways you can proactively safeguard against technology-related CTS.
When using a computer, be mindful of your posture. Sit properly with your elbows by your sides, and your wrists straight and at the same height as the keyboard (not raised up or bent).
Take breaks. If you are playing a game on your phone or computer, make sure to give your hands a break from the repetitive motions required to play.
Stretch and strengthen. Flex, extend and rotate your wrist and fingers to reduce stress and strain on this area periodically and regularly.
Knowing what can potentially lead to CTS and taking actions to prevent it can help you avoid this peripheral nerve injury that appears to be on the rise. As the saying goes: “Prevention is better than the cure”.
*This article is not a replacement for professional medical advice.