Does your job put you at risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome appears to be common among professional computer users, especially data entry and typists. The repetitive use of the mouse and the forceful wrist and finger use are identified as the cause of CTS especially in people who have to use the computer and perform repetitive movements every day. Beside office workers, the risk of CTS has been reported to be high in those individuals who must operate vibrating machinery.

According to a study done by K. Mohamed Ali and B.W.C. Sathiyasekaran 1 out of every 8 computer professionals suffers from CTS. Their study showed how a high exposure to computer work would result in a higher risk of developing CTS. They stated that people are at higher risk when the wrist is not kept in a neutral position, but it is flexed or extended for a
long time.

As a consequence, the attention to ergonomic during work is extremely important. Ergonomic chairs and ergonomic products which help keeping the wrist and the body in a neutral position can help in preventing certain wrong movement which in the long run might lead to CTS. An interesting factor that came out during their study is the fact that CTS affected significantly also males and not just females.

Our genetics makes the difference

When talking about CTS, the problem resides in the structure of the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel can have two main structures: a large cross-sectional area and a small cross-sectional area. People with a small cross-sectional are genetically more likely to develop CTS due to an easier compression of the nerve caused by the little space in their wrist. A period of break from the repetitive work is suggested to cause an improvement in the symptoms that are usual when CTS is present.

Aspects besides genetics

According to a study by Harris-Adamson et al. (2013), they assessed that few factors, besides the genetic aspects, were influencing the risk of developing the syndrome. These factors are body mass index, being a woman and age. Women are more at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome as, genetically, they have a smaller cross-sectional area compared to men. But this does not exclude the possibility for men to also develop CTS.


What we can conclude is that, although genetic factors play an important role and should be taken into consideration, also repetitive work can put at risk of developing CTS. Although certain individuals are more at risk than others, prevention can help to reduce the risk of CTS also in those individuals which might develop it through repetitive work. Attention to ergonomics is the first step in reducing the risk of CTS.

Sources: Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Vol. 70, No. 8 (August 2013), pp. 529-537
K. Mohamed Ali & B.W.C. Sathiyasekaran (2006) Computer Professionals and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 12:3, 319-325, DOI: 10.1080/10803548.2006.11076691