You’re working at your desk, trying to ignore the tingling or numbness you’ve had for some time in your hand and wrist. Suddenly, a sharp, piercing pain shoots through the wrist and up your arm. Just a passing cramp? It may be you have carpal tunnel syndrome. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually. As they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.

What causes the problem? Some people have smaller carpal tunnels than other people do. Other causes include performing assembly line work, wrist injury, or swelling due to certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. motions of the hand and wrist. Typing on a computer keyboard is probably the most common cause of carpal tunnel. Other causes include playing some musical instruments, playing sports such as racquetball or handball, sewing, using tools (especially hand tools or tools that vibrate, working on an assembly line, and writing.

How to find relief: You can make changes in the workplace to reduce the stress on your wrist. There are also keyboards, different types of computer mice, cushioned mouse pads, and keyboard drawers that are specially designed to reduce stress on the wrist. You may also need to make changes in your work duties or recreational activities. Carpal tunnel syndrome has also been linked to professional musicians. Medications are used in many cases for temporary relief, but 50% of people who have carpal tunnel syndrome will eventually require surgery. Surgery is successful most of the time, but it depends on how long the nerve compression has been occurring and its severity.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.


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