Type out your memoirs. E-mail to your heart’s content. Play a computer game. It seems that you can do whatever you like on your keyboard, as often as you wish — because it is likely not going to raise your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Health advice had long suggested a link, but as we move forward, we make more discoveries and find health news such as this.
In fact, a landmark Swedish study found that people who spend a lot of time on the computer are actually less likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). So computers are not necessarily the enemy of your wrists.
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Really, it shouldn’t be a big surprise, because CTS has been around since the 1900s, long before keyboards became the mainstay of the workplace. The “tunnel” is located where your wrist bends, and has eight small carpal bones in it. The median nerve travels through the tunnel; when this nerve is compressed due to swelling, this is when CTS sets in.
But what causes that swelling? There has been talk about keyboards and CTS for as long as keyboards have existed. But studies say otherwise. In 2001, a study said that using a computer up to seven hours a day did not raise your risk of CTS. In the more recent study, researchers surveyed nearly 2,500 adults to further investigate the issue. Of those who spent four hours a day or more on the computer, 2.6% developed CTS. How about those who spent one to four hours a day? The figure was 2.9%. And those who didn’t use the computer at all? For them, 5.2% had CTS.
The study highlights the possibility that, rather than hurting the wrist, typing could actually protect you from CTS. The not-so-forceful activity of hitting keys works out the muscles and could lower your risk of swelling. The more likely culprits behind CTS are repetitive motion tasks that require some degree of force.
Some potential causes of CTS include an injury to the nearby area, having diabetes or arthritis, thyroid problems, job stress, alcohol abuse, and previously unknown mechanical problems in the wrist. Symptoms start slowly, with burning, itching, numbness or tingling in your fingers and hand. They may feel like they’re swollen, but there is no swelling visible. Pain and weakness will follow, and it can spread to affect the whole arm. You may feel more clumsy handling objects, because your grip isn’t very good any longer, and you may not be able to distinguish hot from cold. Talk to you doctor if you think you may suffer from CTS.