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Can you avoid carpal tunnel syndrome?

6 tips for preventing CTS
6 tips for preventing CTS

Over time, everyday activities that put a strain on your hands can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful disorder that can cause permanent damage if left untreated. These tips can help prevent CTS or relieve symptoms and prevent further injury if you already have the condition.

  • If you work at a computer, make sure you’re comfortable. The wrists should be in a neutral position—neither bent up nor down. Keep your hands relaxed. Type softly—don’t pound the keys.
  • If you use any tools or utensils, make sure they fit your hand correctly.
  • Slow down when performing repetitive activities.
  • Take frequent breaks and alternate activities whenever possible to give your hands a rest.
  • Reduce your hands’ workload by using household appliances, such as electric can openers, electric staplers and food processors.
  • Avoid working in the cold and quit smoking. Both activities reduce blood flow, which may make you more vulnerable to CTS.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, a common disorder that affects women three times more often than men, can strike anyone who uses his or her hands vigorously or repetitively—from typists to assembly line workers, mechanics to musicians, gardeners to sports enthusiasts.

In carpal tunnel syndrome, the main nerve to the hand is pinched by swollen tendons in the wrist, leading to pain and numbness. Conditions such as pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems and diabetes also can contribute to compression of the nerve. Women between the ages of 30 and 60 appear to be most vulnerable.

What are the warning signs?

The tip-off that you may be developing carpal tunnel syndrome is a feeling of weakness, burning, pain, tingling or numbness in your hand. The symptoms are typically worse early in the morning and during the night, when they may actually wake you up. You may also find it difficult to pick up small objects or make a fist.

If you experience any of those symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away. Left untreated, the condition can get worse, and the damage to the nerve can become permanent.

How to treat CTS

If you’re diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, you’ll need to stop or cut back on the activity that’s straining your wrist(s). Using aspirin and applying ice to the area may help. In some cases, cortisone injections may be used to ease symptoms. Surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve usually is reserved for individuals who do not respond to conservative measures.

There are a number of ways to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome (see “6 tips for preventing CTS”). Implementing these steps may take a little planning and discipline, but in the long run they may prove well worth the effort.

What are the warning signs?

How to treat CTS