Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

5/14/02

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

We hear a lot about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) because the injury is so common in the workplace. It accounts for almost 50% of the work related muscular skeletal injuries. It is estimated that about 3% of people have this disorder. 850,000 people each year seek help from doctors and relief from the pain associated with CTS.

A study conducted by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that information on the internet about this syndrome was “dubious.” Using the most common search engines, researchers found that 63% of the time they were sent to a commercial website. In other words, someone was selling something. About 13% had a university affiliation and 14% gave ‘misleading’ information.

Some cites offered miracle cures. Physicians were warned that patients may come to them with erroneous information so they need to question their patients about what type of information the patients have, where they get it, and what they know about their problem.

Doctors can make a mis-diagnosis, too. In the journal of muscle and nerve, another study looked at what is considered the gold standard for diagnosing CTS, nerve conduction studies. While these studies may be considered 90% accurate, results can indicate that a person has the syndrome when they don't. The results depend on the person doing the test and how the test is performed. If10% of the results are incorrect, this could lead to unnecessary surgery and prescriptions, workman’s comp payments, etc, in thousands of patients.

The diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome must be made on symptoms as well as tests. Symptoms include pain, tingling numbness, and weakness in the thumb and three fingers. The person may have trouble making a fist or grasping something. The pain and tingling is caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist.

Treatments may include injections to reduce swelling and pain in the area, and anti-inflammatory medications. Surgery is considered when conservative treatments fail. 260,000 people have this very successful surgery each year. Long-term results have shown that only 1% of those who have surgery will have a recurrence of the problem.

Prevention is always best. Ergonomic furniture that is designed to reduce injury and fatigue will help. Proper posture helps. Your computer should always be at eye level and the keyboard about an inch off your lap. Physical therapists maintain that warming up before you attack the computer may help. Resting every hour and doing some exercises to allow the median nerve to slip freely through the tunnel may also help.

You can find a description of recommended exercises on the below links.

NIOSH Facts on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Medline Plus
Carpal Tunnel Brochure (You will need Acrobat Reader to view.)

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