Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common complaint, with symptoms ranging from subtle numbness to extreme pain and disability in the hand/wrist that can force a change in a worker’s vocation. According to the current research, the cause of CTS is the compression of the median nerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel at the wrist, which can be the result of repetitive motions involving the wrist, physical injury, and/or conditions like inflammatory arthritis, diabetes, pregnancy, and more. In other words, anything that reduces the tunnel’s size can result in median nerve compression and hence, carpal tunnel syndrome.
Researchers have found that industrial jobs that require repetitive, forceful work—those that involve heavy tools, for example—increase the risk for CTS, but the evidence isn’t as clear regarding jobs that involve repetitive motions with limited force, such as typing on a keyboard.
According to one Danish study that monitored the wrist health of 5,600 technical assistants, computer keyboard use may not be a likely cause of CTS. While the study did find that 11% of the workers experienced tingling or numbness in one or both hands, only 5% were considered to have developed CTS based on their overall description of symptoms—which is similar to what would be found in the general population. The study did find that using a mouse for twenty or more hours per week increased the risk for CTS.
However, that is not to say that working at a computer all day does not cause pain or strain in the hand/s, wrist/s, forearm/s, shoulder/s, or the neck. As mentioned above, just over half of the workers who experienced symptoms like tingling or numbness in the hands did not meet the diagnosis criteria for CTS.
Dysfunction anywhere along the course of the median nerve from the neck, shoulder, and elbow to the wrist can place pressure on the nerve and result in symptoms that mimic CTS. Doctors of chiropractic are trained to evaluate and treat the whole person in order to identify problems that either mimic or contribute to the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. In many cases, a patient may not experience satisfying and lasting results unless problems elsewhere in the neck, shoulder, elbow, or lower arm are also addressed.