Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that affects the hand and wrist. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes compressed or squeezed as it passes through a narrow passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. This is a narrow canal formed by the bones of the wrist, along with a strong band of connective tissue (called the transverse carpal ligament). Within the carpal tunnel, the median nerve, as well as tendons that control finger movement, pass from the forearm to the hand.

When the carpal tunnel becomes narrowed or inflamed, it can put pressure on the median nerve. This compression of the nerve leads to the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Several factors can contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, including:

  • Repetitive hand and wrist movements: Activities that involve repetitive motions of the hand and wrist, such as typing, using a computer mouse, or assembly line work, can increase the risk of developing CTS.
  • Wrist anatomy: Individuals with a smaller carpal tunnel or certain anatomical variations in the wrist may be more prone to developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance, can increase the risk of developing CTS.

The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:

  • Numbness or tingling: Individuals may experience numbness, tingling, or a “pins and needles” sensation in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. These symptoms may extend up the arm.
  • Weakness and clumsiness: The affected hand may feel weak, and individuals may have difficulty gripping small objects or performing fine motor tasks.
  • Pain or discomfort: Some people experience pain or a dull ache in the hand, wrist, or forearm. The pain may radiate up the arm or down into the fingers.

Symptoms often start gradually and may be more noticeable at night. They may be relieved by shaking or moving the hand. In advanced cases, muscle wasting at the base of the thumb may occur.

If you suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome, it is important to seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can perform a physical examination, review your symptoms, and may order additional tests such as nerve conduction studies or electromyography to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome may include:

  • Rest and activity modification: Avoiding activities that worsen symptoms and taking regular breaks from repetitive hand movements.
  • Wrist splinting: Wearing a splint to immobilize the wrist and relieve pressure on the median nerve, particularly at night.
  • Medical interventions: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections may help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Stretching and strengthening exercises for the hand and wrist can be beneficial.
  • Surgery: In severe cases or when other treatments have been ineffective, carpal tunnel release surgery may be recommended. This procedure involves cutting the transverse carpal ligament to increase the size of the carpal tunnel and relieve pressure on the median nerve.

It’s worth noting that early diagnosis and intervention can help prevent the condition from worsening and improve the chances of successful treatment. Therefore, if you suspect carpal tunnel syndrome, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.

Reporting Work related Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Exposure to vibration at work through the use of hand-held, hand-fed or hand-guided power tools or machines can cause a range of disorders, including: Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). It can be caused by repetitive movement of the wrist as well as cases caused by vibration.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that arises from work activities is reportable under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013), with 165 new cases being reported in 2021 (mostly men).

Need help tackling your  Occupational health and safety issues? Contact LRB Consulting Limited  – 01509 550023