Losing weight is important to your health for a variety of reasons. Your heart health is especially affected by excess weight. Diabetes, stroke, and back pain are also more common in persons with excess weight. However, most of us do not have enough lean body mass and need to do something about changing our nutrition and exercise habits.
In carpal tunnel syndrome, well-known risk factors include using tools that vibrate or doing work that involves repetitive motions of the hands and wrist. Also, workers who have neck and shoulder pain are more likely to get carpal tunnel symptoms in the future.
These obvious factors are easy to understand, but what does this have to do with excess weight? Carpal tunnel syndrome, like all diseases, has many different causes. All of these potential causes need to be thoroughly considered when approaching a patient’s condition from a holistic standpoint.
Excess weight gain has been problematic in Western society for many decades. Two-thirds of adults in the United States are now either overweight or clinically obese. Research has shown that obesity can increase your risk for carpal tunnel syndrome by as much as 75-100%. Why this is the case is not well understood. Understanding this additional risk to being overweight may motivate more of us to do something about it. Weight loss is difficult for anyone, so if there is one more positive thing that can motivate us, such as less hand pain, then this needs to be appreciated.
In some patients, increasing body size can cause the spine to alter into a sway back with forward head posture. The sway to the low back is easy to see looking at an obese person from the side. X-ray is needed to see the changes in the neck curve. In this sway back position, the spinal cord and nerves of the neck are more stretched. This stretching of the nerves might make them more susceptible to pinch at the wrist because they are first compromised at the neck.
Another theory is that the changes that come with obesity may create more inflammation in the body. This inflammation might make symptoms at the wrist occur if there was already a narrowed space for the nerves to pass through.
Obesity can be just one more added stresser to your body that you can do without. Choose a doctor who considers both your nutritional and structural needs when deciding on a healthcare provider. Prevention is the key to many problems, including carpal tunnel syndrome.