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Myths About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A huge amount of non-factual "information" regarding the non-proved entity "cumulative trauma" and its counter-part "repetitive strain injury" (RSI) appears on the internet. This includes quack treatment such as vitamins, exercise, magnets, copper bands, crystals, food supplements, bogus medication such as carpal tunnel cream, and the list goes on. See the section on History of Endoscopic Carpal Tunnel Release for scientific information on the diagnosis and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. 

1) CTS is frequently caused by one's work/job overuse, i.e. repetitious use of one's hands.

Truth: There has been no causal relationship between any specific job in the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. 

2) CTS is closely linked to keyboarding.

Truth: It has never been tied to keyboarding. In fact, many people in the early 1990s tried to sue major manufacturers of computer equipment and they failed because of the lack of any evidence to tie keyboard activity and keyboard design into the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. 

3) CTS frequently recurs after surgery.

Truth: Carpal tunnel syndrome has a very low recurrence rate after definitive surgery. The few large studies that have looked at the potential for recurrence have identified a risk of less than 1% to, at most, perhaps 2%. Based upon my experience and that of the largest published study on endoscopic carpal tunnel release, I believe that the recurrence rate is about 1/200 or 0.5%. It is probably higher in diabetics. Ulnar nerve entrapment at the cubital tunnel is most often the underlying cause when patients are misdiagnosed as having recurrent carpal tunnel syndrome. 

4) CTS will go away if a person changes his/her occupation.

Truth: Carpal tunnel syndrome will normally only go away with surgery. Sometimes, if a person changes their activities enough their symptoms will diminish, but the underlying problem of pressure on the median nerve does not go away. 

5) CTS responds to carpal tunnel exercise, vitamins, magnets, massage and splinting.

Truth: Carpal tunnel exercises, vitamins, magnets, crystals, copper bands, massage and splinting have no long-term effect. Only splinting can give a temporary change in the pressure of the carpal tunnel because the wrist is held in a neutral position and pressure is maximum when the wrist is flexed or extended. That doesn't mean the pressure is gone. Splinting is useful to keep the pressure at a minimum until surgery.

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