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ERGONOMICS - How Is Your Wrists?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, CTS, an epidemic condition affecting millions of Americans. Very debilitating, hard to diagnose and treat, it can mirror several other illnesses ranging from Diabetes to Brain Tumors.

Since computers were developed and typists started to just type, faster and faster, without periods of rest or job diversification in between, like preparing paper, inserting copy pages, editing and erasing, etc. workers started to feel the effects of CTS.

Not exactly known how we get it, and the physiological opportunities where joints, tendons, and nerves couple to produce the malady. Indications that tendon sheets get swollen from in and out constant motions, and they in turn compress or pinch the median nerve, enveloped by tendons in the middle of the carpal canal or 'Tunnel.'

Median nerve is one of three nerves that control finger movements in our hands, ulnar and radial are the other two. Unknown why only the Median nerve is attacked by complications, other two nerves pass the wrist on positions above and below the carpal canal, probably avoiding pinching or occlusion.

The nerve is attached to the spine in the Cervical area, and it is bi-lateral, meaning, the illness after being contracted from hand movements on one hand, will be apparent also later on the well hand, mirror effect.

The nerve anatomical explanations are beyond our scope here, but there are general 'risk factors' that can be discussed in order to try to understand this horrible and painful trauma.

It attacks more females than males, anatomical differences may be at play, size of wrist, hormones seem to predispose females under gestation, the type of jobs different for male and females also make females more propense to the syndrome.

Cold, torque, deviation of wrists, elevation while turning, and some types of vibration are factors that normally are coupled with the illness, rapid movements of hand and wrist, and rotation seem to include large workers' populations into the strata that suffers from the syndrome.

Interesting, that two workers doing exactly the same job may not both contract the illness, hinting some hereditary or genealogical implications on propensity.

My specialty is Prevention, if I do my job right, worker does not get the illness, specialist must observe workers in offices and factories and 'visualize' conditions that may produce CTS on workers and change that job through interventions, extremely difficult.

No textbooks, no how-to courses, each consultant must develop own skills, you do get good at it by combining prior experience and adapting to new job handling and conditions, my approach did not use videotaping, respect workers, and just draw small sketches with items surrounding the job activities, and later, do some hard thinking and problem solving, it works!

Advantage of redesign efforts, worker feels better, increases productivity and work flow in areas of production. Same with office environments, or telephone computer large banks like airline reservations, catalog companies, NET tech help staff, etc.

My approach always was to introduce breaks in continuity of harmful but necessary tasks performed by workers, besides breaks every two hours, we could enlarge the job, pass the job to the other hand cutting exposure by 50%, and remove worker from area and do filing or similar tasks in work/office environment. Time element of exposure was my target. In labor applications, changes of levels and tool adaptation seem to work best, always trying to change or reduce risk factors.

Once you get it, sadly it is irreversible, a chronic condition, means no cure.. Few physicians are truly trained or qualify to treat patients, profit motive and large pool of affected patients, makes some less qualified individuals go into the CTS business, really hurting people by their lack of knowledge.

Surgeons cut, procedures may or may not make you better, complex search for best approach, investigate your options well, go to specialist early.

Specifically to trading, we do type a lot communicating with others and doing searches, etc. take breaks every two hours, exercise opening and closing your fingers fast with arms elevated, use rubber small balls to exercise hands, make sure furniture touching your arms has round edges, use special wrists rests, etc,. plenty literature on area. Restraining devises, not recommended, may transfer stresses to other joints like elbows.

Symptoms to be aware, waking up at night with pain in wrists and hands, dropping things, tingling sensation on hands and wrist area, unable to conduct normal office or shop tasks without pain or discomfort.

At first signs of CTS consult your GP and ask for referral to a specialist. Do investigate complaints and track record of physicians. Be well, trade well.