Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition that occurs when the median nerve is compressed or restricted as it passes through the wrist. Because repetitive wrist and hand motions can inflame the tissues in the wrist and place pressure on the median nerve, workers in jobs that require such movements—such as those seated at a computer workstation all day—tend to have an elevated risk for the condition. That said, what can be done to minimize the risk?
A January 2021 study looked specifically at 1,000 office workers under age 50 from 30 workplaces in China. Participants completed a questionnaire that included information on demographics, work type, related physical and psychosocial factors, and wrist and hand symptoms using a body chart and a rating of the intensity of symptoms, nocturnal symptoms, and aggravating activities. Then, participants were clinically evaluated, and CTS was confirmed using standard testing protocols.
The authors reported that 22% of participants had wrist symptoms and 15% had hand symptoms, with 9.6% meeting the clinical criteria for CTS. Further analysis identified the following risk factors for CTS among office computer users: smoking, working with hand/wrist pain, prolonged computer use time, and working without breaks.
Mandatory breaks spread throughout the workday may be an effective strategy for reducing the risk for CTS among office workers. There is also strong research supporting the health benefits of integrating exercise with meditation during such breaks.
Meditation has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as reduce chronic neck pain—another common complaint in the office environment. Incorporating physical activity during a short break will not only help lower the risk for CTS, but it may also reduce the risk for chronic ailments like cardiovascular disease and diabetes that are associated with high levels of sedentary behavior.
While it may not be possible to eliminate one’s risk for CTS, if hand and wrist symptoms are present, it’s important to seek care sooner rather than later because earlier intervention improves the odds for a satisfactory result. Doctors of chiropractic are trained to examine the whole person and look for all contributing factors in a patient’s chief complaint. With suspected CTS, it’s not uncommon to find additional areas along the course of the median nerve (the neck, shoulder, elbow, forearm) that need to be addressed to resolve the patient’s pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness symptoms.