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Healthy Habits for Bonsall & Fallbrook Folks: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Traffic at the nerve route

Megan Johnson McCullough

Special to the Village News

Chronic, lingering wrist pain that causes discomfort for daily living activities may be attributed to carpal tunnel syndrome. When pain, tingling and/or numbness is felt in some of the fingers, there can be nerve compression.

The uncomfortable feeling can be attributed to the median nerve. This nerve runs down the arm, through the wrist and to the fingers. The route the nerve takes is through the carpal "tunnel." Movement of all fingers, except the pinky, are controlled by this nerve. When swelling occurs, the "tunnel" becomes narrowed. There are about 200,000 cases of CTS per year in the U.S.


We live in a world of repetition. Our hands are a vital part of many actions that we take. Most tasks require our hands, fingers and wrists. We write, type, put our shoes on, open doors, eat and the list of hand work could go on and on. These are the very repetitive movements that can lead to CTS, but other culprits include pregnancy, obesity, diabetes, arthritis and hypothyroidism.

Due to these conditions, the wrists are being asked to work under excess weight conditions or through hormonal imbalances that affect joint motion. It is more commonly found among women, possibly because the "tunnel" is naturally smaller. Certain jobs that have repetitive functions also increase the likelihood of CTS. These might include jobs such as a hairdresser, cashier, musician, baker or assembly line worker who does the same movement over and over.


When early detection is possible, a person might feel burning, itching or numbness in their palm or fingers. Your fingers might even fall asleep. This pain can travel up to the shoulder. If the symptoms increase you might lose your grip. Eventually strength in the wrist decreases.

Diagnosis and treatment

There are a couple tests for CTS. Besides a doctor's general inspection of your wrist mobility, you can have a test called EMG-NCV done. It measures the degree of the median nerve function. Upon diagnosis a doctor might tell you to keep the wrist immobile. Using a splint can help lessen the pressure on the median nerve. It helps that nerve rest. Medications are available to help with the inflammation. Steroid shots can be done. Worst case scenario is surgery to correct the problem.

Even a teacher who grades paper after paper can experience carpal tunnel syndrome. We don't realize how much we do and how many times we do these tasks, until suddenly they are painful. CTS doesn't happen overnight; it is the over and over use. Years later we might feel the side. Like most other elements of life, moderation is key. Take breaks and watch your form. Moderate your repeat functions. Keep the tunnel open and not backed up with traffic that leads to frustration and lack of movement.

Megan Johnson McCullough, Ed.D., recently earned her doctorate in physical education and health science, is a professional natural bodybuilder and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine master trainer.


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