Carpal Tunnel: The Musculoskeletal Disorder Of The Digital Age

musculoskeletal disorder, what is carpal tunnel, what causes carpal tunnel

We use our hands a lot and for nearly everything. In fact, we use them so often throughout our day that we’re barely even conscious of just how much we rely on them. That is, until there is something affecting their function. Carpal tunnel is a common musculoskeletal disorder that targets our wrists and causes pain in the hands. It particularly affects those who use their hands in a repetitive way, such as for typing, playing an instrument, or even texting.

Interestingly enough, since the rise of technology and smartphones the condition has been increasingly affecting technology users. With proper treatment, the symptoms of carpal tunnel can be relieved and normal hand and wrist function may be restored. Thankfully, imaging scans have been able to give doctors better insight into effective treatment methods for the condition.

To learn more about this musculoskeletal disorder, read on to “What Is Carpal Tunnel?” for specifics about the symptoms and causes of carpal tunnel, and how we can work to diagnose and treat it.

Musculoskeletal Disorder 101: What Is Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel is a musculoskeletal injury that causes numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hands. These symptoms are typically the result of a pinched nerve called the median nerve, which is located on the palm side of the wrist and is in charge of controlling any movements or sensation in the thumb and fingers.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel?

An injured median nerve is caused by pressure from swelling in the carpal tunnel, something that is often attributed as a result of repetitive hand movements, pregnancy, or certain illnesses such as arthritis and diabetes. Oftentimes the condition is diagnosed in people with jobs that require them to type for long periods of time, and other frequent technology users.

Technology And Carpal Tunnel

Various studies have shown that mobile phones and computers may be to blame for increasing rates of carpal tunnel. As technology has evolved and accessibility to mobile devices has grown, people are finding themselves spending more time texting - an activity that regularly utilizes particular thumb, finger, and wrist movements. This increased usage, and the fact that many Americans are introduced to technology and start these behaviors at a much younger age than past generations, is believed to be a large factor in the recent rise of carpal tunnel rates.

As the rates for carpal tunnel increase, technology has attempted to become “ergonomically friendly” to decrease the chances of developing carpal tunnel. Taking a break from repetitive activities or having a variation is key to preventing this musculoskeletal injury in the future.

How To Test For Carpal Tunnel

X-rays, MRI’s and ultrasounds are the most common diagnostic imaging tools used to test for carpal tunnel, as well as electromyograms and nerve conduction studies. These tests can help doctors learn more about what damage is being done to the median nerve and how severe the pressure is on the nerve.

MRIs can also help doctors find any swelling in the carpal tunnel or problems with blood circulation. Researchers have utilized ultrasound technology to determine whether certain treatments are effective for carpal tunnel relief. X-rays primarily focus on past bone injuries like arthritis that may have triggered carpal tunnel symptoms.

Treatment For Carpal Tunnel

Non-Surgical

  • Wrist Splinting: Nighttime splinting for your wrist can significantly reduce your symptoms, particularly for women who are pregnant.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Medications such as these, or Ibuprofen, may help relieve symptoms short term.

  • Corticosteroids: A cortisone injection can relieve pain, inflammation, and swelling, which will also relieve pressure on the median nerve.

Surgical

  • Endoscopic Surgery: Using a telescope-like device with a tiny camera attached to it (called an endoscope), your doctor can see inside your carpal tunnel, then cut the ligament through one or two small incisions in your hand or wrist.

  • Open Surgery: Requires an incision in the palm of your hand over the carpal tunnel and cuts through the ligament to free the nerve.

More Information


As one of the fastest growing work-related illnesses, the musculoskeletal disorder carpal tunnel is being tested and researched to find out how these symptoms can be treated and prevented. The increasing use of technology in the workplace and in our personal lives has caused carpal tunnel to increase amongst Americans.

Fortunately, the disorder is treatable by the same diagnostic imaging tools that help our patients can help treat this common musculoskeletal disorder. If you’re in need of an x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, or any other diagnostic imaging test, give a clinic near you a call!