Have you heard of 'tech neck'? If not, we recently published a post about it. You might want to read it. At any rate, tech neck is the informal name of a condition caused by too much time spent using digital technology. But there is another technology-related condition that was discovered before tech neck: carpal tunnel syndrome.
Tech neck is largely the result of looking down at phone screens. Carpal tunnel syndrome manifests itself as pain in the wrists. It can be caused by any number of repetitive behaviors involving the wrists, lower arms, and elbows. But in the technology age, it is frequently associated with phone and computer use.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the more common repetitive stress conditions pain management doctors deal with. It is frequently experienced by office workers whose jobs include things like coding and typing.
The condition is so named because it affects a small opening in the wrist known as the carpal tunnel. This is the tunnel through which the median nerve passes. It is formed by carpal bones on the bottom and sides and the carpal ligament on the top.
It turns out that the carpal tunnel in adults is only about an inch wide. Unfortunately, the bones and carpal ligament are very rigid. That means there isn't a lot of room for the tunnel to flex or expand when necessary. Therein lies the big issue with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs either when the tunnel itself narrows or surrounding tendons become inflamed. Both conditions put pressure on the median nerve where it passes through the tunnel, reducing blood supply and generating the symptoms associated with the syndrome.
Those symptoms include:
In most cases, symptoms begin gradually and are mild enough to not be associated with the syndrome. It is easy to mistakenly associate the pain and tingling with something else. But over time, symptoms become more pronounced and severe. They can persist for a fairly long time.
Minor cases of carpal tunnel syndrome that resolve quickly can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications and over-the-counter pain medications. But due to the very nature of carpal tunnel syndrome, minor cases with easy resolution are the exception to the rule.
Instead, pain management physicians need to take into account that carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of repetitive stress. They need to think about other treatments, which could include:
Unfortunately, the way we use technology increases the likelihood of experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome. But with the help of a good pain management physician, pain relief is possible. Just like tech neck, you don't have to grin and bear carpal tunnel pain.