Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Related to Texting & Laptop Use
Texting has become all the rage in our teenage population, especially in the past decade or so. Many agree that texting is an efficient method of communication, while others argue that "text talk" is contributing to failing grades in formal writing exams.
What we don't realize is that texting isn't just responsible for the possible end of the art of handwriting, but may also lead to some truly painful physical conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome included.
Laptop ergonomics should also be considered to avoid excessive keyboard use or positions that could flare cases of carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be defined as feeling numbness or shooting, tingling sensations in your wrist up to your hand. The carpal tunnel is a narrow tunnel formed by the bones and tissues of your wrist.
This tunnel protects your median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand and provides feeling in the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers.
Pain occurs if ligaments and tendons in the carpal tunnel get swollen or inflamed, pressing on the median nerve, which compresses it, leading to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
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Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused when there is excessive pressure on the median nerve. This occurs when you repetitively bend and extend your wrist, which happens during texting, typing on a computer keyboard, or even excessively playing video games. It can also be caused by an injury to your wrist, such as a fracture.
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Symptoms & Diagnosis
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include poor circulation, weakness and tingling in the wrist, hand, and arm, numbness in the fingers, loss of hand grip strength, and pain in the forearm.
To detect CTS, the wrist is examined for tenderness, swelling, warmth, and discoloration. A physical examination of the hands, arms, shoulders, and neck can help determine more painful conditions.
Each finger is tested for sensation, and the muscles at the base of the hand are examined for signs of atrophy and overall strength.
Early diagnosis can help prevent permanent damage of the median nerve.
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Doctors may perform electrophysiological tests and x-rays to detect CTS. Nonsurgical treatments include bracing or splinting, anti-inflammatory drugs, and changing hand positions to reduce stress on the median nerve.
Surgical techniques are also frequently used; complete recovery can take up to a year, and physical therapists may be recommended, depending on whether there are following attacks.
You can do a few things at home to help your hands and wrists in between texting and typing:
- Rest your wrist between activities, and keep it in a neutral position; stop activities that cause numbness and pain in your hand.
- Ice your wrist once or twice per hour every ten minutes. Try anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
- Wear a wrist splint at night to keep your wrist in a neutral position; this takes pressure off your median nerve. Your wrist is in a neutral position when it is straight or slightly bent; holding a glass of water is an example.
- When you type or text, keep your wrists straight, with your hands a little higher than your wrists. Relax your shoulders when your arms are at your sides.
- If you can, switch hands often when you repeat movements, to give the other a rest.
CTS may not affect the teenage population as much right now, but as the rising generation, spending our time texting and late typing in the office can lead to an epidemic if caution isn't taken for prevention.
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Written By: Somya Moyya,
high school writer
Reviewed By: Nancy Brown, Ph.D.
Last Reviewed: October 2013
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Information Page, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
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