By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
CTS is an abbreviation that describes a condition called carpal tunnel syndrome. When we repeatedly use compromising hand postures the nine tendons that run through the wrist can swell and put pressure on the median nerve. This nerve is one of the 3 main nerves of the forearm and hand. As a result, compression of the median nerve can lead to debilitating numbness, pain, and/or weakness of the hand.
How to Prevent CTS
Good body mechanics can help prevent CTS. While it’s true you may not be able to change the tasks required by your job or movements associated with certain hobbies. However, modification of these activities is within your control. Oftentimes, with little more that bringing awareness to the task, a simple adjustment can be made.
Stand tall with your arms hanging down at your sides. Become aware of how straight your wrists are when they’re aligned with your forearms. This is their natural position. Especially relevant in CTS prevention is the need to reduce stress on the wrist area. This can be accomplished by keeping the wrists fairly straight or slightly extended back while performing activities like needlework, typing, or working with heavy tools. This position maximizes the size of the bony tunnel at the wrist (the carpal tunnel) through which the tendons and the median nerve pass.
Exercises for CTS
Stretching the wrists, fingers and hands may help to prevent CTS. There are many simple ways to integrate these movements into your daily life. Perhaps one of the easiest stretches to get started with is done in what I call the “praying hands position”. Open both hands and join the palms together in front of the heart area. Lift the elbows out to the sides and gently push the palms together. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. Don’t forget to breathe during the stretch.
Click here for more exercises to help with CTS.
Take CTS Seriously
One of the most important side notes about CTS is the period of time that elapses between the onset of the condition and treatment. The longer the condition goes without addressing the cause the more difficult it is to get relief from the symptoms. In other words, CTS is not something to ignore.
As a last resort, a surgical procedure for carpal tunnel release can be done if the condition becomes chronic and unresponsive to more conservative treatment.