Every career has its pros and cons when it comes to physical exertion, stress, work hours, the physical environment (temperature, cleanliness, etc.), and more. But when a worker develops carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), is it the job that’s the culprit or is there something else responsible for the patient’s symptoms?
Since we spend about a third of our time each week at work, it only makes sense that certain jobs are more likely to cause or exacerbate CTS. The current research shows that jobs that include the following factors have an elevated risk for repetitive stress injuries, like CTS: highly repetitive tasks; exposure to vibratory/percussive forces; and little-to-no down time or rest breaks.
Examples of careers associated with such factors include auto repair, landscaping, garment work, computer work, dental hygiene, hair dressing, music, retail, radiology, meatpacking, massage therapy, and carpentry, just to name a few.
One’s risk for developing the symptoms associated with CTS can also be raised by factors outside of work such as having conditions like diabetes, hypothyroid, obesity, and arthritis (rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, most commonly); hormonal changes associated with birth control pills and pregnancy; and musculoskeletal dysfunction elsewhere along the course of the carpal tunnel. If someone who may already have an increased risk for CTS takes on a vocation that requires repetitive and forceful movements with few breaks, then the chances they develop pain, tingling, and numbness in their hands and wrists may be even higher.
The good news is that in many cases, a worker can recover from CTS and return to their job of choice (that is, not have to change careers) with reasonable work modifications (better ergonomics, more breaks, changes to the tools used), better management of health conditions associated with increased CTS risk, night splinting, dietary modifications to reduce inflammation and promote healing, and conservative care to address any musculoskeletal issues that are present (of which chiropractic care is a fantastic choice).