Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a painful condition affecting millions of people each year. Although increased use of technology means that the number of people with this condition is likely to increase over the coming years, luckily there are ways you can prevent being one of them.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a caused by compression of a main nerve in the wrist. Symptoms normally begin gradually, starting with a slight pain in the hand, and eventually moving farther up through the arm. Severe cases of the disorder cause people to lose strength and their hands and make it unable for some to do everyday tasks like picking up household objects or perform other manual tasks.
According to the National Institute of Health, CTS responds well to treatment once someone is diagnosed…but wouldn’t you rather prevent it in the first place? Follow these tips so you can do exactly that.
3 Steps to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
1. Exercise Your Hands
If you’re like most digital workers today, you probably spend at least a couple hours typing away at a keyboard. While that may be a requirement for your job, it certainly could lead to joint disaster. Try stretching and exercising your hands throughout the day to prevent discomfort and other issues that may lead to Carpal Tunnel. Here’s one way to do it:
- Hold the second and third fingers up, and close the others.
- Draw five clockwise circles in the air with the two finger tips.
- Draw five more counterclockwise circles.
- Repeat with the other hand.
2. Use Good Posture
Improving your posture is a simple and effective way to prevent the development of carpel tunnel syndrome. Although it may feel awkward at first, always sit with your feet flat on the ground, back straight, shoulders relaxed, and with your neck straightened. Keep your screen at eye level so you can reduce constant strain on your neck from looking down or up too long throughout the day.
3. Invest in the Right Computer Equipment & Ensure Proper Positioning
Generally, the wrists should be bent up only slightly (about 20 degrees), and turned out slightly in the pinky direction about 10 degrees. According to OSHA (Occupational and Safety Health Administration, a division of the US Department of Labor) you should position your keyboard so that it’s at the same height (or slightly below) your elbows, which should hang comfortably by your side. Your shoulders should be relaxed and your wrists should not bend too far up, down, or move to the side when typing.
Split or ergonomic keyboards (keys turned outward slightly) are usually necessary only if you have a large frame and/or large chest. The ergonomic keyboard compensates for your arms being so far apart from each other (which can stress the wrist in a normal keyboard.) If you choose to try an ergonomic keyboard, expect 6 to 8 weeks of mistyping while you get used to keys in different places.
The mouse has become a primary tool for many of us. Some tracking devices that use small muscle groups very repetitively may increase your chances of tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. The most important consideration is the ability for your hand to comfortably fit around the interface, whatever type it is. As a rule, keep the mouse as close to your body as the keyboard. Long or awkward reaches cause shoulder pain and contact stress at the elbow.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a serious condition that can impact your work and your life away from the office. But you can minimize your risk by stretching and exercising your hands, using good posture, and investing in the right equipment.
The tips in this article were approved by Dan Mills, Physical Therapist.
Photo by kurichan+