You’ve heard the warnings—don’t spend too much time at the computer, or you might get carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). But you’re a busy person with deadlines to meet, so you work through lunch and stay late, typing and tapping away.
But then, after several weeks of late-night data entry, your wrists begin to tingle and ache. Uh-oh. Do you have the dreaded CTS?
Contrary to popular belief, CTS is not usually the result of overuse. True CTS is caused by inflammation and swelling in the wrist and median nerve, which is most often a side effect of another condition such as diabetes, an autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid issues. It can also be caused by trauma such as a fracture.
More likely, you are experiencing repetitive stress injury, or RSI. Though symptoms of RSI may be similar to those of CTS—pain, cramping, tingling—RSI is caused not by pressure and inflammation but by repetitive movements of small muscle groups and tendons. Additionally, CTS is marked by weakened thumb grip and is usually more severe at night.
So what should you do about it?
The first step is to rest, and avoid the movement patterns that caused the RSI. If you can’t avoid them completely, then modify them: use your other hand to manipulate your mouse or trackpad, switch to an ergonomic keyboard, or even use a vocal dictation device.
You may also benefit from chiropractic treatment. RSI can lead to tight shoulders and neck muscles, and chiropractic manipulation of those areas can alleviate tension and relax the muscles.
If you’re feeling tension and pain in your day-to-day activities, don’t delay seeking professional help. Getting the proper treatment, rest and rehabilitation is key for maintaining long-term functional movement.