The conversation that links carpal tunnel syndrome to typing has gone on for years. It has expanded to include questioning of whether or not our consistent use of smartphones and our computer mouse may also be putting us at risk. Most people believe that they are. According to numerous, large-scale studies, this may not be the case at all. As many sites and documents we read that say repetitive work activities such as typing are behind this condition, a report in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says otherwise.
A Look at Structure
The carpal tunnel is comprised of a ligament on one side (the top) and wrist bones on the other (the bottom). The median nerve runs through it. The median nerve is somewhat large, so it needs adequate space in order to function properly. If the tunnel constricts due to inflammation, pressure is placed on the nerve, and symptoms such as numbness and tingling or chronic pain develop.
The pressure within the carpal tunnel can change depending on the position of the wrist. Folding the wrist is one way to determine if pressure is being placed on the nerve. If you wake up with pain in the wrist, or other symptoms in your hand, it could be because you sleep with your wrists folded beneath you.
Repetitive Use a Factor, but Not Likely a Cause
A number of the cases studied for research do indicate a link between carpal tunnel syndrome and certain work-related activities. If the position in which the wrist is held throughout the work day, every work day, is poorly aligned, the nerve may suffer irritation. In such situations, lifestyle changes in the workplace may alleviate the symptoms of inflammation. Some people wear a wrist splint to hold alignment in the wrist bones in order to prevent unnecessary stress.
While there is merit in assessing workplace factors, research does not show any indisputable indication that activities such as typing for hours on end actually causes swelling in the carpal tunnel. Some studies do link the two, while others contradict such findings.
What researchers believe is that genetic and medical factors such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and even diabetes play a bigger role in the development of carpal tunnel syndrome than the movements the wrist accommodates on a daily basis.