Fractures vs. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Difference Between Fractures AND Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In a simple fracture, the bone is injured, but the skin is not broken. These types of breaks include stress fractures, or cracks. Cracks are often caused by repetitive actions against bones; for example, runners may suffer stress fractures of the tibia and fibula in the lower legs if they repeatedly run on a hard surface that jars these bones. Greenstick fractures are splintered breaks that occur most frequently in the bones of the very young, while their skeletons are still soft. The bones splinter only on the convex side instead of breaking completely—much like a green twig splinters. As people grow older, their bones break more easily. The bones of the aged are particularly brittle; so are those of individuals suffering from the rare, inherited ailment called fragilitas ossium (“fragility of the bones”). Older adults suffering from osteoporosis, a disease of the bone that weakens its structure, are also prone to simple fractures and other injuries.

In a compound fracture, the bone is more seriously injured—it extrudes through the skin and is exposed to the outside air. Compound fractures are always dangerous, because germs may enter the wound, leading to osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone. They also take longer to heal, often requiring surgery and the need to immobilize the broken bone.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpals (wrist bones) and the ligament that covers them form a tunnel through which the median nerve passes. In carpal tunnel syndrome, this nerve is compressed, reducing its ability to carry signals to and from the hand. The result is numbness, tingling, and pain.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be hereditary: a person may be born with a narrow carpal tunnel. Other common causes include trauma, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, thyroid disease, and an overactive pituitary. If not addressed in its early stages, the disorder can result in permanent nerve damage. Initial treatment consists of stopping activities that strain the structures and worsen symptoms. Further options include medications, splinting, and surgery.

A disorder often confused with carpal tunnel syndrome is repetitive stress syndrome, which occurs when a person performs the same action over and over, putting too much stress on a joint. For example, heavy computer use, with improper wrist positions, may cause repetitive stress syndrome. Musicians and people who do crafts involving fingers and wrists also are at increased risk.

 

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