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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Common Workplace Injury

Causes, prevention, consequences, and treatments of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

An explanation of what CTS is, what the implications are of this injury, and what needs to be done to prevent this common workplace injury.

Episode #1-09 released on November 14, 2010

Welcome listeners to a brand new episode of Technology Questions Answered, Episode 9 and today I will be talking a bit about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I'll explain what the carpal tunnel is, what the injury does to people, talk about some of the causes, treatments and more importantly, some preventative measures to, at least, reduce the occurrence of this injury.

This is your host, Steve Smith, Founder of Zed Axis Productions, and Digital Technologies Consultant. Now, I am being completely serious when I say this, be very careful with your wrists. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a very serious injury for anyone who requires use of the hands and wrists on a daily basis. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, also known as CTS, is an injury most commonly associated with the Median Nerve. Most injuries are caused by compression of the Median Nerve underneath the Transverse Carpal Ligament, and I will be posting a photo from the Wikimedia Commons, part of the Wikipedia Article, that I will also post a link to.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affects us by causing mild to extreme pain in our wrist, either intermittent or continuous, sometimes even causing numbness. This means, for all those who are in the workforce, it makes it very uncomfortable or even extremely painful to do repetitive tasks. This can also be caused by bad equipment, continuous vibrations, etc...

Now, how does one compress the Median Nerve underneath the Transverse Carpal Ligament, and cause CTS, in an office or workplace setup. There are many causes to CTS, although it is usually attributed to repetitive movement injuries, such as typing for excessive amounts of time, bad posture, and many other unknown causes, some genetic, as well. One typical way of this injury occurring in the workplace is the inward bend of the hand onto the wrist compressing the carpal tunnel, compressing the Median Nerve, usually because someone is using a keyboard setup too high in respect to your arms and hands positioning, which should be 90 degrees to maintain balance.

How about we deal with known causes to CTS. Many people, including myself, at some point, have typed for long hours, incorrectly. I'm talk about where we position our keyboard and mouse. We often use generic keyboards and mice, do not bother verifying that we are comfortable on them before purchasing them. Using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse may reduce the stress on our wrists, however, they must, also, be positioned correctly, so in addition, you must have an adjustable chair and if possible, an adjustable keyboard and mouse shelf. Your arms must be at a 90 degree angel, not your wrists, and its better to reach down to a keyboard than up high because the injury is caused by compression of the Median Nerve. It is located underneath the wrists, so do not push on it. You may also want to use a rigid brace to keep your wrists straight. You may also find some comfort in using a Gel Wrist Rests for the keyboard and mouse.

There also stretching exercises you may do. To exercise range of motion ball your hands into a fist, and open your hand up straight. Make sure to feel the stretch. You may also use the other hand to pull on your hand and fingers pulling them to increase flexibility. You have to hold the stretch 5 seconds, then release. Repeat 5 or more times per hand. Remember, you have to feel some stretching occurring in the nerves in order for these exercises to be done correctly.

If the keyboard or mouse is not helping, change them. If your using a laptop, you may plug in a usb keyboard and mouse into it. You may also want to examine the chair height, and if its adjustable, play with the adjustments until you feel comfortable.

If your anything like me, you may find that you periodically have pain in your wrists anyway. Take a break every hour, for several minutes, do some stretching, ice your wrists with a closed cold drink if you have any nearby.

You may also want to take advantage of some software included into most modern operating systems, usually called Voice Command, its an accessibility function that allows for dictation, and some control over software by voice command or if you prefer to download professional software like Dragon Naturally Speaking, you may. You also want to use software to force you to take breaks, software such as Workplace Angel, which aid in the prevention of many types of injuries such as CTS.

If you find yourself with continuous pain in your wrists, I do suggest you see your medical professional immediately to be diagnosed and treated. Let me remind you that it is better to prevent this injury than actually have to treat CTS.

The treatments are as follow, from minor issues to major issues.

  • Stretching
  • Immobilizing braces
  • localized corticosteroid injections
  • medications, usually anti-inflammatory
  • Ultrasound Treatments
  • Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery

Let's talk a bit about Carpal Tunnel Release Surgery, which I have had a few friends undergo to date, with varying results. Quoting from Wikipedia, view the source in the show notes, "In carpal tunnel release surgery, the goal is to divide the transverse carpal ligament in two. This is a wide ligament that runs across the hand, from the scaphoid bone to the hamate bone and pisiform. It forms the roof of the carpal tunnel, and when the surgeon cuts across it (i.e., in a line with the ring finger) it no longer presses down on the nerve inside, relieving the pressure." The surgery does vary depending on experiences and preferences of the surgeon.

So, just to recap this report on this important injury to avoid. Take breaks, get a keyboard and mouse you feel comfortable on, do stretching exercises, make sure your seated upright, have your arms bent at 90 degrees, do not bend inward unnecessarily, purchase gel rests to reduce impact collisions on the desk, get an adjustable chair.

Next week, I will be talking about disk fragmentation and defragmentation software.

If you have any questions, comments or stories on any topic we talk about here on this podcast, or any other previous episodes, you may find all the necessary contact information or list of sources, software, hardware suggestions, and a link to our new message board on our web-site at Triple-W-dot-Z-E-D-A-X-I -S dot-NET, as well as a list of important pod casts that you should also listen to. You can also send your emails regarding our podcast at tqa@zedaxis.net.

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This has been a podcast, hosted by Steve Smith, Digital Technologies Consultant for Zed Axis Productions, Stay Safe and Online. This has been Technology Questions Answered.

This podcast has been recorded using audacity, an open-source, sound recorder and editor, head over to audacity.sourceforge.net and support Audacity by donating or buying exclusive merchandise, or head over to our web-site and view the links in the show notes of this episode.

This show was recorded: November 14th, 2010 and is now available on iTunes and our web-site at http://www.zedaxis.net/.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Steve Smith | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

Sources & Resources