If you suffer from wrist pain, it may be tempting to self-diagnose with carpal tunnel syndrome. But myths about carpal tunnel abound – like the common misconception that the condition is caused by typing and prolonged keyboard use. These common carpal tunnel myths will help you stay informed as you look for the proper health care provider.
WHAT IS CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition wherein the median nerve is compressed as it travels through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Common symptoms include pain, numbness, and tingling, in the hands and fingers, sometimes extending up to the arms. If left untreated, carpal tunnel can cause weakened grip strength, and atrophy of the muscles at the base of the thumb.
Myth #1: Typing and Keyboard Use Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
A common myth is that strenuous keyboard use causes CTS – however, this is not necessarily the case. Studies from the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School showed that while symptoms may develop with many activities (including the use of keyboards), keyboard use in itself is not a definitive causal factor.
In fact, doctors say that the majority of carpal tunnel syndrome is idiopathic – root cause unknown. And while it’s possible to develop carpal tunnel syndrome from heavy computer usage, many light computer users also develop this condition, and in many instances there are no predisposing factors, with CTS simply developing spontaneously over time.
Myth #2: Wrist Pain Equals Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
CTS is the compression of the median nerve, which runs from the hand to the shoulder. Not all cases present with localized pain in the wrists – likewise, not all wrist pain is caused by CTS. According to the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Disease and Injury Causation, 85% of patients diagnosed with CTS were revealed to have been misdiagnosed upon nerve conduction testing.
Many conditions have similar symptoms to CTS, including tendonitis, bursitis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, thoracic outlet syndrome – as well as a host of physical injuries such as sprains, fractures, dislocations,
Myth #3: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Only Affects the Wrist
CTS is the compression of the median nerve, which runs from the neck, through the shoulders, arms and wrists, and directly into the hand. While Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is most closely associated with pain in the wrist, many sufferers will experience pain and numbness in other areas – in diagnosing CTS, pain in the arms, neck and shoulders should not be overlooked.
Myth #4: CTS Always Causes Permanent Damage
While CTS may cause permanent nerve and muscle damage if left untreated, careful management and prompt carpal tunnel release surgery can help eliminate symptoms and regain full faculty of the hands and wrist.
Myth #5: CTS Can Only Be Cured By Surgery
While severe cases of CTS may require surgery to decompress the median nerve and relieve the symptoms, it is not necessarily the answer for all patients. There are many non-intrusive alternatives to surgery, such as physiotherapy and chiropractics, which can help manage pain and prevent CTS-related muscular dystrophy.
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