Friday, June 06, 2008

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

A definition of CTS ...

"Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Google the term and you will get over 600,000 hits. Pick up a magazine or newspaper and there is a chance that you will find some mention of carpal tunnel syndrome. Wear a brace or cast out in public and everyone will ask if you have carpal tunnel syndrome. The term has become a commonplace part of our language. There is even a band that goes by the name of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

However, the term carpal tunnel syndrome has become erroneously associated with all hand pain. The truth is that many other types of injuries can cause hand pain. In order to recover completely from repetitive strain pain, it is important to determine the true cause of the pain and not just treat the symptoms. It is important that we not assume and treat all hand pain as if it were carpal tunnel syndrome.

So, what exactly is carpal tunnel syndrome and how will you know if you have it?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the compression of the median nerve at the wrist.

The nerves to the hands are long “threads” that start at the neck, branch under the arm pit, and travel down to the fingers. The nerves are the power cords that provide the muscles along their pathway with power and provide certain areas of the skin with sensation. They also assist with circulation and provide the skin with the ability to sweat.

The carpal bones are the eight small wrist bones that connect the hand to the forearm. They are arranged, for the most part, in two rows of four bones each. The arrangement of bones is slightly curved like a “C”. A strong, thick, wide ligament, the transverse carpal ligament, attaches from one end of the carpal bones to the other. The bones and the ligament over it create the carpal tunnel.

The median nerve passes through this tunnel on the way to the hand. Nine tendons also pass through the tunnel along with the nerve.

Tendons are the rope-like end of the muscles that attach muscle to bone. When the muscle contracts, the rope-like end of the muscle (the tendon) pulls on the bone and creates movement. The tendons that pass through the carpal tunnel are the eight tendons that bend each of the two finger joints plus the tendon that bends the thumb tip. These muscles begin at the inside edge of the elbow.

The nerve is the most vulnerable structure in the carpal tunnel. If there is any swelling of the tendons related to over-use, repetition, poor wrist positioning or any other cause, the nerve gets pinched and the nerve impulses do not travel along the nerve pathway properly. This can affect muscle power, sensation, and circulation."    (Continued via Bella Online, Marji Hajic)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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