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Definition: carpal tunnel syndrome

A disorder that causes numbness in the hand and pain in the wrist due to the compression of the median nerve, which runs down the arm to the fingers. The pain can extend all the way to the neck and be extremely severe. People may have a genetic predisposition to this malady and those who suffer with thyroid problems, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are believed to be more susceptible.

Short, Repetitive Movement
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by short, repetitive movement, such as typing, knitting, and using vibrating tools for hours on end. Constant mouse movement is also a factor. The lack of rest in between these motions irritates and inflames the flexor tendons that travel with the median nerve to the hand through an area in the wrist called the "carpal tunnel," which is surrounded by bones and a transverse ligament. The inflamed tendons squeeze the nerve against the ligament.

The Treatments
The prescription for typists may be as simple as wrist exercises and the use of a wrist rest or ergonomic glove. The more severe remedy is surgery, in which the transverse ligament is cut to relieve pressure. See RSI and medical conditions.

The Median Nerve
There is so little space in the carpal tunnel that when the tendons get inflamed, the median nerve is pressed against the transverse ligament. (Image courtesy of www.carpal-tunnel.com.)

Rest the Wrist
High wrist rests help to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome by keeping the wrists elevated above the keyboard. Unfortunately, they are not widely found in retail stores.

Mousing Twists the Bones
The healthier way to grab a mouse is in the "handshake" position, whereby the forearm bones are not twisted. Evoluent's vertical mice keep the arm in this proper orientation. (Images courtesy of Evoluent, www.evoluent.com)

An Ergonomic Glove
IMAK Products' Smart Glove uses a removable splint (upper cutout) to keep the wrist in the proper position. The ergoBeads (bottom cutout) massage the area to increase blood circulation and promote healthy muscle tissue. (Image courtesy of IMAK Products Corporation, www.imakproducts.com)