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Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a disorder affecting the hands and wrists, has probably received more attention in recent years than any other musculoskeletal disorder. CTS is the compression and entrapment of the median nerve where it passes through the wrist into the hand in the carpal tunnel. The median nerve is the main nerve that extends down the arm to the hand and provides the sense of touch in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the fourth, or ring, finger.
When irritated, tendons housed inside the narrow carpal tunnel swell and press against the nearby median nerve. The pressure causes tingling, numbness, or severe pain in the wrist and hand. The pain is often experienced at night. The pressure also results in a lack of strength in the hand and an inability to make a fist, hold objects, or perform other manual tasks. If the pressure continues, it can damage the nerve, causing permanent loss of sensation and even partial paralysis.
Carpal tunnel syndrome develops in the hands and wrists when repetitive or forceful manual tasks are performed over a period of time. You need to be aware of the symptoms and causes of CTS and what to do about them. Initially, you may have fatigue and pain which develops during the work day and disappears overnight with no physical symptoms. After a length of time, fatigue and pain develop earlier in the day, some physical symptoms such as clumsiness may occur which affect work performance, and there may be no overnight recovery.
When the case becomes full-blown, there is constant fatigue and pain with no overnight recovery and disturbed sleep results. At this point, work performance is inhibited to the extent of requiring off-duty time or light/restricted duty. Often workers do not associate their pain with their work because symptoms may only occur during evening or off-duty hours. When they finally seek medical help, surgery may be necessary and the road to recovery will take more time than anticipated.