Seminar discusses carpal tunnel syndrome

By Michael McVey

Dr. Jay Goldberg from the Center for Hand and Microvascular Surgery of St. Louis (CHMS) gave a presentation on the prevention and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) Tuesday in the Capitol Room of the Holmes Student Center

Goldberg discussed several promising new forms of surgical treatment for CTS, such as decompression of pinched nerves and tenosynovectomy, a procedure where a zig-zag is cut into the carpal nerve to enable the nerve to expand further, and then sewn back together.

Goldberg stressed the importance of prevention, saying advanced cases of CTS had only a 50-50 chance of full recovery. If diagnosed early, CTS is quite treatable and is not as serious a condition as a recent wave of publicity might seem to suggest.

During his presentation Goldberg, a leading specialist in treating CTS, showed slides of actual nerves on which he has operated. The audience could see the nerve before operation, the procedure he used and the same nerve after corrective surgery. CTS was noted by an hourglass-shaped nerve and discoloration near the pinching.

After Goldberg’s presentation Michelle Sullivan, marketing and education director for the Microsurgery Education and Research Foundation, also in St. Louis, gave a presentation on ergonomic design of work stations.

“The word ergonomics comes from two roots: ‘ergon’, meaning work, and ‘nomus’, meaning natural law. Thus, ergonomics is the designing of a job to fit the worker,” Sullivan said.

“Ergonomics serves two major purposes: to prevent injury to workers and to increase productivity by making the job easier and less fatiguing.”

Sullivan showed several slides of good and bad examples of work station design in both office and industrial settings. Ergonomic design reduces problems like awkward heavy lifting, lack of room to work, having to reach repeatedly for objects and pinching of hands and arms by sharp edges.

Sullivan’s presentation also called attention to the design of hand tools and the placement of work materials in relation to the employee. Poor work station design is often a cause of CTS, Sullivan said, and ergonomic design helps to decrease cases of work-related CTS.

Sullivan also pointed out the problem of poor work habits even when the work station is properly designed. Bad posture or taking shortcuts to save time can aggravate not only CTS but back problems as well.

Sullivan stressed the importance of a good working relationship between workers and management since CTS is now the number one cause of workers’ compensation claims.

Communication about such problems as left-handedness, discomfort due to work station design and recreational activities that place repetitive strain on hand muscles is vital to minimizing CTS cases.

Sullivan also suggested hand, arm and neck exercises to relax and strengthen muscles subject to repetitive operations and awkward positioning.

About 150 people attended the seminar. Several spectators asked questions ranging from personal experience with CTS to the possibility of mis-diagnosis as tendonitis.

Terry Kessler, benefits counselor of NIU’s insurance office, offered to answer questions or concerns university employees might have about CTS or work station design after attending the presentation.