If your job involves sewing, cleaning, meatpacking, manufacturing or finishing in an assembly line, then you have a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS – you may even be presently detecting symptoms of this condition, if you have been working in the said industries or other similar occupations for quite some time.
What is it?
Considered the most expensive of all known work-related injuries, CTS pertains to a problem with your median nerve, a nerve that runs from your forearm into your hand. CTS is called the most common entrapment neuropathy – it’s the compression or trauma of the nerves that can be found in the hands and feet.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow opening that carries tendons and nerves from the arm to the hand. Carpals (small wrist bones) form the “floor” of this opening while the “roof” is made up of the transverse carpal ligament. When the median nerve gets compressed in the carpal tunnel, you experience weakness, numbness or pain in the hand and wrist; this will also radiate up into your forearm.
How does it affect you?
CTS causes you to feel itching, tingling or numbing sensations on your palms, fingers, hands and wrists. You may experience the sensation that your fingers are swollen or useless, or your grip strength can be significantly weakened, so you can’t pick up small objects or even clench your fist. Some people with CTS also report being unable to tell hot from cold using touch. If your regular routine involves working with your hands for hours on end, CTS will cause you to miss out on days or weeks of work; you stand to lose hundreds or thousands of dollars on medical bills and absences from your job.
Who can help?
The ideal professional to approach would be a qualified and reputable chiropractor. Northern Beaches residents can visit a doctor of chiropractic who will run standard physical examinations of the hands, shoulders, arms and neck, as well as more specific tests like the pressure-provocative test (wherein a cuff is placed at the front of the carpal tunnel and inflated, and pressure is applied to the median nerve) or the carpal compression test (wherein moderate pressure is applied directly on the carpal tunnel and on the underlying median nerve at the transverse carpal ligament using the chiropractor’s thumbs).
Chiropractors, especially those well-versed in sports injury management, have the knowledge and training in accessing and correcting possible causes of pressure on the median nerve. They can perform joint manipulation and mobilisation of the wrist and hand, mobilisation of the soft tissue, and strengthening and stretching exercises. They can also recommend proper supportive measures that may work for you like observing proper posture and wrist position, taking frequent breaks from work, wearing splints or fingerless gloves, and implementing job rotation as well as developing ergonomic programmes at work to minimise workplace injuries.