The Carpal Tunnel ConnectionResearchers are taking another look at carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Until now, CTS has been viewed as a painful condition of the wrist and hand brought on by repetitive motion. There has been general agreement that this is mainly job-related.
A large study of over 250 people from four industrial sites shows that other factors may be just as important. These are personal factors such as weight, being female, and cigarette smoking. Women are four times more likely to have CTS than men. Overweight people (men and women) are five times more likely to get CTS.
How are these factors related to CTS? This remains unknown and will be the subject of future research. Overweight and cigarette smoking are the two most important causes of death and disability that can be changed in the United States. These two problems will continue to get a lot of focus and attention, which may eventually explain the link to CTS.
Changing personal habits may reduce the amount of CTS in the workplace. Wellness programs that combine weight loss, smoking cessation, and stress reduction are recommended. Since changing the workplace and work style has had limited success in reducing CTS, perhaps promoting changes in personal factors will make a bigger difference.
Peter A. Nathan, MD, et al. Predictors of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: An 11-Year Study of Industrial Workers. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. July 2002. Vol. 27A. No. 4. Pp. 644-651.
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