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Carpal tunnel syndrome: A progressive injury

People who type a lot and those who use their hands in a repetitive motion are at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a cumulative injury that can lead to limited mobility and trouble with being able to do the tasks at hand.

In some cases, workers who suffer this injury don't pay attention to the early signs. They might think that what they are experiencing is a normal part of the job. This isn't usually the case. A person who has carpal tunnel syndrome needs medical care to prevent the injury from becoming worse.

What is the carpal tunnel?

The carpal tunnel is a one-inch opening in the structures of the wrist through which the median nerve runs. The tunnel is made up of the carpal bones, which protect the nerve and the tendons that control the movement of the fingers. The top of the tunnel is comprised of a ligament. There isn't much room for the nerve to move within the tunnel and there isn't any room for the structures that make up the tunnel to shift.

How does carpal tunnel syndrome occur?

When there is pressure on the median nerve, the person can feel weakness, numbness, tingling and pain in the hand. The pressure is often caused by a narrowing of the carpal tunnel, which can occur with repetitive motion, such as the wrist motion that is commonly used by a cashier to ring up each customer's items.

How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?

The treatment for this condition depends on the severity when it is diagnosed. If it is found early, the person might only have to wear a brace on the wrist. Anti-inflammatory medication and pain relievers might provide some relief from the condition. In more severe cases, surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerve might be necessary. This can require that the person take considerable time off of work.

Can carpal tunnel syndrome be prevented?

Using proper body mechanics can sometimes help to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Taking the time to stretch before a shift and during your work time might reduce the risk that you will suffer from this cumulative trauma injury. If you start to notice signs, make sure to get medical care right away to head it off before it worsens and can be harder to treat.

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