One of the most common of repetitive motion injuries, the World Health Organization categorizes it as a work-related musculoskeletal disorder. Reportedly responsible for 30-40% of workers' compensation claims in the early 1990s, it afflicts burgeoning numbers of office workers.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow channel of fixed diameter that contains tendons and nerves. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms occur when there is pressure on the median nerve (center, red in the diagram.)
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by excessive and unrelieved repetition of movements that in themselves appear harmless, such as cutting vegetables or typing on a computer keyboard. In addition to high frequency of repetition and lack of rest periods, factors that increase risk of hand-wrist damage include awkward or unnatural working posture, use of excessive force in performing a task, and emotional stress.
Numbness, tingling, and pain in the base of the thumb and the first three fingers results from the compression of the median nerve, which shares the carpal tunnel with tendons.
Treatment includes rest, exercises, wrist splints, anti-inflammatory medications, learning stress-reducing movement techniques, making adjustments to the individual's workstation, and surgery to reduce pressure on the afflicted nerve.
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