Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS is an increasingly common problem affecting the wrists and hands. This problem results in 2 million physician visits and 260,000 surgeries per year, affecting women 3 times more often than men. CTS is frequently caused by repetitive activities such as computer and tool work, but can be aggravated by sleep postures and daily household activities. If not properly treated, CTS can lead to nerve damage and permanent disability.
What Are the Symptoms of CTS?
CTS results in pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and fingers, particularly the index and middle fingers. It is caused by decreased space in the carpal tunnel in the wrist, where the median nerve runs into the hand. This decreased space can result from inflammation or scar tissue formation in the tunnel. The nerve then becomes compressed and results in pain and abnormal sensation. Common activities which can aggravate CTS are use of vibrating tools, computer work, bicycling, knitting, and house cleaning. CTS can become severe enough to awaken people from sleep because of poor wrist postures.
Treatment of CTS
The most severe cases of CTS may require surgical intervention. Prior to surgery, however many options are available. Reducing the stress on the wrist is important. This can be done by maintaining the wrist in neutral posture while using your hands. That is keeping, your hands in line with your forearms and not bent up or down. Splinting can help with this, especially if you are having problems at night. Ergonomic evaluation of a work site can also be beneficial to put your body in the most optimum position. Decreasing repetitive hand movements that are forceful, awkward, or involve grasping and pinching will significantly decrease stresses on the wrist.
One of the most fascinating and recent developments in treating CTS is the ML830 laser. In 2002 the FDA approved the ML830 laser for treatment of CTS because of its success in research trials. Cold laser is a non-operative pain free treatment which can be combined with other traditional forms of physical therapy.