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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome & the Workplace

EnFuse Staff
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Category: Strength & Rehabilitation

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome & the Workplace

What is it?

The human body has a vast network of nerves that trek from your head down to your toes.  These structures allow the body to have sensation, such as touch, as well as motor tasks, like walking and typing.  Nerves are susceptible to damage, just like the rest of our body’s tissues.  Nerve dysfunction can come about from traumatic injuries, genetic diseases, or something as simple as body positioning. 

This article will focus on carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), which involves the median nerve.  Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes compressed in the wrist.1 This compression can be caused by swollen tendons of one or numerous muscles that share the tunnel with the median nerve.  Obesity may also play a role in CTS.  Increased fat cell storage in the wrist will lead to a decrease in space in the carpal tunnel.  Furthermore, women are more likely to get CTS since their body structure, overall, is often smaller.2 People who smoke cigarettes are additionally more at risk for carpal tunnel.3

Workplace Application

People who are in the construction field, assembly industry, or use a computer for most the day are more at risk for developing CTS.4 However, it is not necessarily the job that causes this condition; more so, the wrist movements that accompany many of these jobs are what trigger early stage CTS.  Continuous vibrations, extreme forces, and high repetitions are the common actions that provoke this troublesome condition.   

Since there are many predisposing factors to CTS, it is difficult to state exactly what measures one should take to prevent this condition.  With that being said, general exercise and proper posture can decrease the stress placed on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. Strengthening the muscles in the hand and wrist is very important in preventing CTS.  When these muscles become weak, the body looks for ways to adapt in order to perform tasks.  For example, if a person has weakness when extending his or her wrist, he or she may compensate for that lack of wrist movement by manipulating the shoulder’s function.  This strategy can not only cause wrist problems, but also lead to shoulder complications. 

Posture is also important when talking about CTS.  Many people do not think about posture throughout their daily activates.  Furthermore, gym-goers often neglect postural muscles when training, since these are not the typical “beach body” muscles.  The shoulder complex is extremely important when referencing wrist joint mechanics.  Maintaining strong shoulder stabilizer muscles will allow the joint to maintain its integrity throughout daily activities.  However, if these muscles are weak, a person’s posture may be affected.  This is where the concern of CTS may arise.  A person must continue through their day-to-day activities, which can inadvertently place an increased stress on the wrist.5 These compensatory wrist actions, if executed for prolonged periods of time, may lead CTS. 

While there are many methods to treating CTS, current research suggests splinting, nerve gliding exercises, forearm strengthening exercises, grip strengthening exercises, and intermittent activity breaks are most efficient in reducing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.  Splinting allows the wrist to stay in a fixed position, which reduces the stretch applied to the median nerve.6 Splints also allow a person to preserve finger function.  Nerve gliding exercises can be done in almost any environment.  These exercises promote a stretch in the targeted nerve and increase the mobility of that nerve in its respective compartment.7

Grip strength and forearm strength can be increased through home exercises as well.  These are not large muscles and do not require heavy barbell activities to create hypertrophy and strength gains. Something as simple as squeezing putty or a towel can be used to remedy strength deficits. 

CTS may arise as an overuse injury.  Occasional breaks during the work day may help alleviate the stress placed on the median nerve.  Furthermore, relaxing your grip with your functional activities may decompress the carpal tunnel structures.

In conclusion, carpal tunnel syndrome can vary in severity.  This condition can be developed quickly or over a long period of time. However, it is important to be progressive if this condition affects you.  Also, while there are many at home exercises and work place modifications, a doctor should always be contacted and consulted. 

 

Medical Disclaimer

THIS SITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE: None of the information on this site is intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only. EnFuse Fitness makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained on or available through this web site, and such information is subject to change without notice. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this web site with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician. Reliance on any information provided by EnFuse Fitness, its employees, others appearing on the site at the invitation of EnFuse Fitness, or other visitors to the site is solely at your own risk. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ ON OR ACCESSED THROUGH THIS WEB SITE.

References:

  1. 1. Aboonq MS. Pathophysiology of carpal tunnel syndrome. Neurosciences. 2015;20(1):4-9.
  2. 2. What is carpal tunnel syndrome?. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet. Published January 2017. Accessed on May 2, 2017.
  3. 3. Pourmemari M-H, Viikari-Juntura E, Shiri R. Smoking and carpal tunnel syndrome: A meta-analysis. Muscle & Nerve. 2013;49(3):345-350. doi:10.1002/mus.23922.
  4. 4. Palmer KT. Carpal tunnel syndrome: The role of occupational factors. Best practice & research Clinical rheumatology. 2011;25(1):15-29. doi:10.1016/j.berh.2011.01.014.
  5. 5. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. University of Maryland Medical Center. http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/carpal-tunnel-syndrome      Published May 26, 2012. Accessed on May 2, 2017.
  6. 6. Piazzini D, Aprile I, Ferrara P, et al. A systematic review of conservative treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. Clinical Rehabilitation. 2007;21(4):299-314. doi:10.1177/0269215507077294.
  7. 7. Pinar L, Enhos A, Ada S, Güngör N. Can we use nerve gliding exercises in women with carpal tunnel syndrome? Advances in Therapy. 2005;22(5):467-475. doi:10.1007/bf02849867.

 Images:

  1. 1. http://www.rosewellness.com/carpal-tunnel-syndrome-fairfax-virginia/
  2. 2. https://www.drugs.com/health-guide/carpal-tunnel-syndrome.html
  3. 3. http://www.handshb.com/2014/07/median-nerve-glides.html

We hope that you find this article helpful!

In Health,
Team EnFuse

EnFuse Fitness, located in Enfield, Connecticut, is a veteran and family owned private personal training studio that offers pilates, massage, meal prep, and nutritional counseling services.

Proudly serving residents of western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut since 2010.

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No part of this article may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without prior written permission from EnFuse Fitness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images:

  1. 1. http://www.rosewellness.com/carpal-tunnel-syndrome-fairfax-virginia/
  2. 2. https://www.drugs.com/health-guide/carpal-tunnel-syndrome.html
  3. 3. http://www.handshb.com/2014/07/median-nerve-glides.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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