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CTS: carpal tunnel syndrome (repetitive motion injury) ~ alternate treatments
by Stephanie Olsen
03/23/03
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Carpal tunnel syndrome ("CTS") is certainly not a life-threatening condition, but it can be life-altering and should be treated seriously.

Symptoms

Most people realize that something is amiss when they either wake up with (or are woken up by) pain and/or numbness in one or both hands. Take note if the "pins and needles" extend to your little finger, as your doctor will need that information to make a correct diagnosis.

Common tasks such as driving a car, sweeping, holding a book, sewing or pushing a stroller become uncomfortable or even impossible as the affected person is unable to grasp or to feel the object in her hands.

Causes

Carpal tunnel syndrome is linked most often to obesity and to any repetitive motion (such as typing). Physically, it is caused when the wrist tunnel pinches a nerve and, left untreated, CTS can cause permanent damage. The condition does worsen over time and some activities exacerbate the condition, so if you suspect that you have a repetitive motion injury, don't let it go either undiagnosed or untreated.

Treatment

Immediate rest of the injured wrist is usually called for, keeping it in a neutral position (not flexed or extended) so that the carpal tunnel is unconstricted, giving the nerve as much room as possible. Moderate Vitamin B-6 therapy might be suggested, but take note that evidence of relief is anecdotal and that there are warnings of high usage linked to cancer.

Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs help alleviate symptoms and pain, although personally I found stretching exercises and icing to be of more help.

In some cases, surgery may be the only answer, but recovery is difficult: painful and inconvenient. A good friend of mine recalls having to get her bra fastened "for the longest time" by her husband - a minor point, perhaps, but everyday tasks can become quite infeasible, especially if you are a parent with young children at home. Speak to your doctor about endoscopic instead of open carpal tunnel release in order to minimize trauma and speed convalescence.

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About the Author:

Stephanie Olsen, published writer, homeschooling mother of two and ESL teacher currently residing in Europe, is also owner of the expatriate site, Family Life Abroad, where you'll find humorous and informative articles by experienced expatriates on all aspects of living abroad, with lots of links and travel tips.

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