Nature and nurture both play a role in the occurrence of many different diseases and conditions. One condition that is often affected by our environment and genetics is called carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder that causes persistent tingling, pain, weakness, and loss of proprioception (spatial reasoning) in the hand and wrist. According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, CTS is actually a group of symptoms that result from the compression of the median nerve of the wrist – which runs from the forearm all the way to the palm of the hand. When it becomes compacted or compressed, it can cause injury and impairment.
Some people are genetically prone to be more susceptible to CTS, so understanding the anatomy can help. The carpal tunnel is a (very) slender passageway running through the palm side of our wrists, and the median nerve – which is responsible for sensation and hand movement – runs through it. However, in some cases the synovium (the tissue that surrounds it) swells up, rather than lubricate the tendons as they should. Unfortunately, some people are built with narrower carpal tunnels to begin with, and increased pressure or overuse only exacerbates the problem.
Gender plays a large role in the possibility for developing carpal tunnel syndrome – with women having three times more risk than men. For one, a woman’s wrist is typically more petite than a man’s, meaning that nerves must pass through tighter spaces for adequate functioning. Hormonal changes – due to pregnancy, Menopause, or lymphedema (the build-up of fluids that occurs after mastectomy) – can all cause fluid retention and pain in the wrist.
There are also many underlying medical conditions which are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Hypothyroidism, lupus, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis all make a person more prone to developing the condition. In some cases, CTS is a precursor or signal that other diseases will follow. A study published in Diabetes Care, found that people who had been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome were 36% more likely to be diagnosed as diabetic down the road – regardless of other Diabetes risk factors.
Many times, choice of one’s daily activities or profession can place them at greater risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Those in occupations that require repetitive wrist movements – such as assembly line workers, manufacturing associates, secretaries (or those who type frequently), and construction workers, should take precautions to prevent CTS. Taking breaks, paying attention to proper hand posture, wearing a brace, and making ergonomic adjustments to your workplace, are all helpful lifestyle changes to incorporate. A physical therapist may be able to recommend exercises that target the hands and wrists, and reduce the pressure placed on them.
There’s a light at the end of the (Carpal) tunnel. If you sufficiently treat your condition early by making small adjustments, you may be able to eradicate your symptoms altogether. Don’t wait until it’s too late; seek help from a well-respected physician. Pain Specialists of Austin lives up to their motto “Help is on the way” – offering a host of reliable techniques for relieving carpal tunnel discomfort. For more information, call their office at (855) 876-7246.