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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – A Work Related Injury

Carpal Tunnel syndrome is the most common of the repetitive motion disorders, and a medical condition produced by the compression and entrapment of the median nerve in the wrist. The median nerve is a pencil-sized cord containing thousands of nerve fibers. The flexor tendons which control finger movement and the median nerve are contained within a tunnel-like structure called the carpal tunnel. Each tendon is surrounded by a protective covering called the synovial sheath. 1. A highly repetitive use of the hands or certain medical conditions may cause this sheath to swell. Although anyone can develop carpal tunnel syndrome, women are more commonly affected by a ration of 3 to 1.

Signs and Symptoms: Carpal tunnel usually begins gradually with pain and numbness with tingling of the hand in a median nerve distribution; Thumb, index, middle and part of the fourth finger. In the early stages, symptoms typically occur with the movement, especially repetitive movements or when the wrist is held in a flexed position for a long time, increasing pressure in the tunnel. As the symptoms progress, sleep may get disturbed that can contribute to anxiety and depression which is another contributing factor into the increase of symptoms. Each client may experience the progression differently, with symptoms developing over the course of weeks, months, or years depending on the contributing factors and the client’s general health.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common work-related injury. When related to repetitive maneuvers, carpal tunnel is also known as a repetitive stress injury. Some common occupations that have a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome include:
• Massage Therapist
• Dentists and dental hygienists
• Carpenters
• Mechanics
• Food Servers
• Musicians
• Writers
• Hairdressers
• Cashiers and supermarket checkers

Diagnosis and Prevention:
Carpal tunnel syndrome can usually be diagnosed by your doctor following a complete medical history and physical exam looking for potential causes and effects of the syndrome. Behavior modification and lifestyles changes can usually completely recover the symptoms such as:
1. Making changes in the way you complete repetitive tasks
2. Decreasing the frequency of the repetitive movements
3. Increasing the amount of rest time away from repetitive tasks

There are many steps you can take to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Knowing the risks will help you identify which activities are posing a risk. Some important tips to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome are:

1. If possible, rotate job tasks on a regular basis to prevent over use of the same muscles.
2. Perform exercises to strengthen you hand and wrist.
3. Avoid the use of vibrating tools or insulate tools to reduce the vibration.
4. Take frequent breaks from using your hands though out the day.
5. Avoid the use of too much salt if you are prone to fluid retention.

Resting is so important with any repetitive injury and prevention using massage therapy can relax your extensors and flexors of your arms and relieve stress from overuse. Also hand massage can do wonders for the hands on worker.

By, Tiffany Rivera, hhp, lmt, cmt, ncbtmb

References:
1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, A Comprehensive Guide for the Massage Therapist The Institute for Advanced Therapeutics, Inc. P.O. Box 8484152 Pembroke Pines, Florida 33084

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