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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Teen-Agers

As a certified hand therapist, I recently treated a 21 year old who had been having pain, numbness and tingling in her hands and wrists related to work activity.  When she initially contacted a doctor, she was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.  Unfortunately, because of insurance issues, she was sent to a second physician who told her that it was impossible for her to have carpal tunnel syndrome because she was “too young”.  He then proceeded to treat her for a hand “strain”.  Because symptoms did not improve, this young woman was once again referred to third physician, a board certified hand surgeon, who listened to the description of her symptoms, ran the appropriate tests, and has since properly diagnosed her with carpal tunnel syndrome.

The carpal tunnel syndrome epidemic of the 1990s appears to have improved.  Once one of the most common injuries that I treated, carpal tunnel syndrome is no longer the diagnosis that I see most often.  Although I still treat many cases of repetitive strain injuries such as tendinitis and other nerve compressions, education and ergonomic intervention appears to have made a positive difference in the 30 to 40-something crowd.  Still, one in ten of us will have symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome severe enough that we notice an impact on our daily activities.  Unfortunately, many of these symptoms are being seen increasingly in the younger population.

The reason that we may be seeing symptoms earlier is that teen-agers spend a significant amount of time using technology.  Whether texting, interacting on myspace or facebook, emailing, playing video games or guitar hero, performing school, homework and perhaps even part-time job activities, symptoms of repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, are being seen and treated in the younger generation. 

Here are a few tips to help teen-agers and young adults stay pain-free:
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing at the Hand Therapy & Occupational Fitness Center in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.

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