Hopefully you didn’t do too much damage to your wallet on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but what about your wrists? Sorting through all those online deals can literally be painful if you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
Americans set a record this week. Monday was the biggest online shopping day in this country’s history, and so far this month we've spent almost $40 billion just through our computers, phones and tablets. All that clicking can come with another cost.
“Patients are getting awakened in the middle of the night and their hand is tingling and it feels funny, and they all say they shake it (as if it were asleep),” Dr. Brian Kozar said, an orthopedic surgeon at Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can flare up if you're not using the computer properly.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway at the base of your hand. Overuse or misuse can cause swelling of the ligaments, which narrows the tunnel and pinches the nerve that runs through the hand and fingers. The condition is commonly caused by any sort of repetitive gripping motion that curls the wrist.
A computer keyboard should be level with your elbows or slightly lower. Kozar recommends using a gel pad to help keep your wrists level and straight. You can also try a vertical mouse that takes pressure completely off the wrist.
If you've lost strength in your hand (can’t open lids, drinking glasses slip out of your hand), or have consistent tingling and numbness, make an appointment with your doctor.
“A simple splint keeps people from hyper flexing their wrist at night after they go to sleep, so if they are suffering from early carpal tunnel symptoms, it keeps their wrist straight,” Kozar explained.
Other options are steroid injections or anti-inflammatory medications. Extreme cases may require a 20-minute outpatient procedure to relieve the pressure.
“The surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome works very well.” Kozar said. “It stops any nerve damage from getting worse, but what it does not do is reverse damage that's already there.”
Contact Ochsner Medical Center at (225) 752-2470 for more information.
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