Imagine not being able to hold a pen and that you’re wrist feels like it’s about to explode just from attempting to hold it properly.
Painful and sad, right?
Now imagine not being able to play your favorite PC game anymore – no more LoL, or DoTA, or CS:GO.
I bet you’d go crazy. That’s Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for you.
Unfortunately, a lot of gamers – even professional ones – have their gaming lives and career cut short due to this incapacitating illness. This article aims to shed light on what is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and how to avoid it.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
In a tech-driven society, it is not shocking that you hear complains about wrist cramps or painful and repetitive jolts of pain from the wrist to the arm up. Especially when, most of the time, that person types, texts, or writes his/her day off. This painful sensation is called carpal tunnel syndrome.
The median nerve, located at the length of the wrist to the carpal tunnel, is compressed, or in layman terms, squashed. Basically, what alerts the pain is anything that would narrow the carpal tunnel, thus crushing the median nerve, notifying the pain receptors.
Since we live in a tech-driven society, carpal tunnel syndrome can certainly make you inefficient at types of work that are greatly demanded and required today. Fear not, because there are ways on how to prevent and cure this condition.
Causes of CTS
The condition can be attributed to so many possible reasons that to pinpoint direct causes becomes impossible. From genetics to the nature of one’s work, the possible causes can be specified.
Unfortunately, some people are born with the genetic predisposition to acquire carpal tunnel syndrome. They are simply born with a naturally narrow carpal tunnel. Other causes can range from obesity, hypothyroidism, arthritis, diabetes, and trauma from arm injuries.
Repetitive extrinsic factors from pressure that is put on the part of the carpal tunnel can also be a cause of the condition, such as heavy workloads, sprains, and fractures. Intrinsic factors also play a role in the development of the syndrome.
An example would be benign tumors located near the carpal tunnel. Pregnancy and menopause also is a cause of the carpal tunnel syndrome, as the body experiences hormonal changes and swelling of the synovium.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be detected through various symptoms that gradually develop, more so if the condition is not immediately addressed.
General symptoms include tingling sensations in the hand or arm, localized numbness and pain, paresthesia or that pin and needle sensation.
Weakness of grip and inability to differentiate hot from cold can also be a symptom of this condition.
Pain sensations can mostly be felt in specific parts of the hand, namely the thumb, index and middle finger since these fingers directly receive their motor impulses from the median nerve.
Symptoms are usually worse at night. Patients often wake up just to shake their hands and arms to alleviate numbness and tingly sensations. Physical appearance of the lower thumb area can also worsen.
Muscles in this part deteriorate as a result of the condition. The skin in this part can look stretched and withered, especially when the patient’s carpal tunnel syndrome is left untreated.
With the effects being unattractive and painful, carpal tunnel syndrome should be treated immediately to prevent worse conditions. Treatment options range from cheap medication alternatives to surgery.
Perhaps one of the cheapest medication would be staying away from the activities that worsen the condition. But if one’s work require the repetitive and damaging activity, proper exercises and add-ons that counter the effects are advised.
Physical remedies such as strains and wrist braces can be opted for, especially when the patient prefers a non-invasive treatment.
These aid patients when avoiding the damaging carpal tunnel activity is impossible. Physical therapy is also a non-invasive option, such as that of acupuncture.
Drugs can also be used for treatment. Corticosteroid injections, although immediately effective, should only be used temporarily. Oral medications such as “water pills” can also be administered.
For severe cases, surgery provides a longer period of relief, if not permanent. Carpal tunnel release is one of the most common surgery option. Open release surgery is one type that involves cutting 2 inches of skin to widen the carpal tunnel.
Endoscopic surgery, on the other hand, only requires a half-inch incision which allows for lesser scars and faster healing.
How to Prevent CTS
Maintaining proper posture is a simple and an effective way of preventing carpal tunnel syndrome, but this is undeniably taken for granted. Due to heavy workloads, that do not only pressure people, they also have no more time to double check this simple but significant exercise.
Improper posture can result to nerve compression in the neck, which then reflect to other nerves in the long term as well, specifically the median nerve. Being cautious of your arm postures can also be of great help. Leveling your arms and wrists while typing can aid in this exercise technique.
For people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, yoga can also be of help. This exercise program directly address posture, as well as joint stretching and strengthening. Whole body yoga exercise is advisable since good posture has a tendency to trickle down to other specific mobile parts of the body.
Use of Ergonomic Gear
Workers are the majority of carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers. That is why ergonomics, or the leveling of working conditions to the abilities of workers, should be tapped by employers.
Ergonomics mainly include devices and techniques that aid in the prevention and cure of carpal tunnel syndrome. One of which would be switching from QWERTY keyboards to a Dvorak keyboard layout.
There are also ergonomic qwerty keyboards that split in half to allow users better and comfortable access. Ergonomic mouses are also available in the market that give off a warm feel to it. Wrist rests with cushion parts and strategically placing chairs are also other ways to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome development. We have a great comparison table of the top gaming chairs in the market today that you can check out.
One of the best ways of preventing carpal tunnel syndrome is through exercise. Simple stretches can do just the thing, but they have to be strategically placed in patients’ daily schedule.
You can never be too busy for your health and comfort, so taking breaks every 45 minutes of work is advisable. Isometric exercises are one of the many advisable and helpful techniques. Also, fanning out fingers on a flat surface is a short but effective technique.
Grips should also be monitored as people usually hold onto things tighter than what is needed.
Lessening tight grips can be aided by pens with soft grips when writing, or hitting the keys on a keyboard softly since too much force can, not only damage your carpal tunnel, but also damage the keyboard itself.