Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the most commonly referenced Repetitive Motion Injury – a category of conditions that represent the fastest growing segment of injuries in American society today. Many factors have been blamed on this recent epidemic including increased computer usage, poor ergonomics, and improper medical treatment that is focused on masking symptoms rather than on prevention or correction.The term “carpal tunnel” refers to a tunnel formed by bones of the wrist through which nerves and tendons pass as they travel from the forearm to the hand. Although irritation of the nerves at the carpal tunnel is a common cause of this condition, there are usually other factors. “Trapped” nerves at the spine (usually the neck), pectoralis minor muscle of the chest, rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder and forearm muscles are commonly involved with this condition.
Repetitive “rubbing” of sensitive soft-tissues or chronic muscle tightness will initiate an injury cascade that will eventually lead to significant dysfunction and pain. Both of these situations deprive the soft-tissues of much needed oxygen due to a decrease in full muscle contraction and complete relaxation. This reduces the “pumping” action that normally occurs within healthy muscle tissue. A decrease in tissue oxygenation triggers fibroblastic activity – the primary mechanism involved in the formation of scar tissue. As the scar tissue builds, the tendons passing through the carpal tunnel thicken. This thickening decreases the amount of space available in the tunnel for the nerves. Eventually, the competition for space within the tunnel will lead to a compression of the nerves triggering the typical carpal tunnel symptoms. In other words, carpal tunnel syndrome can develop over months or years before the first symptom is ever experienced!