Practice Health: Step away from computer to relieve carpal tunnel
by Meghan Palmer
Special to The Star
Aug 25, 2013 | 3481 views |  0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With computers playing such a large role in our daily lives, carpal tunnel syndrome has become a common ailment. The carpal tunnel is inside your wrist. It is formed by wrist bones and something called a retinaculum. Think of the retinaculum as a rubber band holding in your tendons, nerves and blood vessels. Turn your palm up, make a fist and move it around. See those tendons popping out at the wrist? They would pop out even more without that retinaculum to rein them in.

Those tendons attach muscles from the forearm to the hand and fingers, allowing fine motor control and grip in your hands. Lots of typing, especially in a poor position, can irritate the tendons and cause swelling, which is trapped by the retinaculum. When this happens, the blood vessels and nerves sharing the carpal tunnel also feel the pressure, and you feel pain in the wrist and hand, and numbness or tingling in the hand and fingers.

True carpal tunnel syndrome is relieved when you take a break from typing, shake your hands or stretch your fingers.

If you type a lot during your day, take breaks. Rest your elbow on your desk, palm up, and put pressure on the ends of your fingers. You should feel the stretch through your wrist and down the inside of your forearm. Roll your shoulders around. Frequent breaks from the computer will help the rest of your body, too.

To prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, make sure your computer station is properly positioned. The 90-degree rule is effective — elbows, hips and knees should all be positioned at 90 degrees. Your wrists should be straight while you type. If you do have tingling, pain or numbness in your wrists and hands, there are a few treatment options.

If you go to a chiropractor, adjusting the spine will help with clearer nervous system communication, and also with better skeletal alignment. Adjusting the wrist can also relieve pressure and restore function. Sometimes, what can seem like carpal tunnel syndrome is actually originating from spinal nerves in the neck. These nerves travel through the shoulder, down the arm, all the way into the fingertips. If pressure is put on a cervical nerve, due to subluxation (misalignment) of vertebrae, the same kinds of carpal tunnel symptoms can show up in the hands and wrists. The difference is where the nerve pressure occurs.

An orthopedist may recommend what is called a “cock-up” splint, which is a kind of brace which supports the wrist.

Surgery is an another option but should be considered a last resort. Physical therapy exercises that aid in surgery recovery have been shown to do just as much good — without the surgery. As with any medical condition, try the simplest, least invasive remedies first.
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