How To Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is often associated with years of computer use and office-related tasks, but it can affect anyone who performs any kind of repetitive movements using their hands. The carpal tunnel is located on the palm side of the wrist. It contains bones, tendons, and ligaments, and when the nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel is under repeated pressure or squeezed by swollen tendons in the wrist, it can result in carpal tunnel syndrome.
In many cases, the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome start slowly. You might feel some burning or numbness in your thumb or any of your fingers except your pinkie. It is also possible for the feeling to start traveling up your arm. The symptoms also tend to start at night. This is because most people bend their wrists when they sleep, putting pressure on their median nerve.
As the carpal tunnel condition gets worse, you will start feeling the symptoms during the day, most often after you’ve spent a good amount of time doing something where you have to bend your wrist up or down. The symptoms might come and go for a while, but they will get worse and occur more regularly.
Some of the other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- The feeling of swollen fingers, even if they don’t appear swollen.
- Shocks that temporarily come and go in your fingers and your thumb.
- It becomes hard to make a fist, and you feel weakness in your hand.
- You tend to drop things more often or have a hard time manipulating small objects or buttoning buttons.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually caused by forceful or repetitive wrist motion. This can be anything from operating vibrating equipment to driving a car or working with small instruments.
How Can You Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
It’s important to take measures to prevent carpal tunnel before you start feeling any symptoms. Since many different types of activities can cause carpal tunnel, start by increasing your awareness of how you use your hands and your wrists throughout the day.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at Work
Following the below tips while at work can help to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:
- Use an ergonomically correct workstation that includes a wrist pad. Keep a wrist pad at the bottom of your keyboard to help keep your wrists in a neutral, almost straight position when you are not typing. When you are actively typing, keep your forearms raised a little, so your hands and wrists can move freely.
- Center the work in front of you. Keep it as low as you can, but make sure the keyboard or workstation doesn’t touch your legs.
- Keep your forearms parallel to the floor or just slightly lower.
- Keep your hands and wrists in line with your forearms.
- Hold your elbows close to your sides.
- Take short breaks every 15 minutes.
- Don’t lean on your wrists or the heels of your hands.
- Stretch your body and perform some wrist stretches.
- Change your computer mouse. There are many styles to choose from. Some will change the position of your hand and help reduce the stress on your wrist. It might take a few tries to find one that works for you.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
You can also prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by making some lifestyle changes.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying additional weight can slow down how fast the nerves travel to your hand. Extra weight can result in a lack of physical activity, which can increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Use a loose grip. No matter what you do, practice it with a loose grip. If you hold something too tightly, whether it’s a paintbrush, pencil, or another small tool, it can contribute to wrist compression and increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. To avoid this, practice some wrist exercises while you work, such as deliberately loosening your grip and shaking your hand while holding a pen or brush.
- Stop smoking. If you are a smoker, it can interfere with blood flow. This can increase your chances of developing carpal tunnel and make the symptoms worse.
- Wear a wrist brace. A wrist brace can help both during the day and at night. It will keep your wrist straight when performing repetitive tasks and also keep it straight while you sleep. Make sure to move your wrist when you take the brace off to keep it strong and flexible, but make sure you don’t put too much stress on it.
- Avoid repetitive tasks. This is easier said than done if your job requires repetition. If you can, change hands to give your dominant wrist a break.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome While Gaming
Gamers who spend hours using a keyboard or game controller are at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Some tips for preventing the symptoms include:
- Take breaks. Give your hands a break by taking some time away from the computer or gaming console. Every couple of hours, get up and move around. This will also improve circulation.
- Use correct posture. Sit up straight and position your screen at a level where you can keep your head up and eyes straight.
- Use an ergonomic mouse. A vertical mouse that changes the position of your wrist might be the answer.
Stretching Exercises to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms
Stretching is another way to help prevent symptoms and relieve pressure on the nerve.
- Rotate your wrist up and down to help relieve any stiffness.
- Prayer stretch. Place your palms together over your head. Keeping your palms together, move your hands downward as far as you can. Hold for five to 10 seconds and repeat.
- Wrist flexor stretch. Put out one hand with the palm toward the floor. Use your wrist to bend the hand upward, and use the other hand to pull back on that hand until you feel a stretch.
- Gently use one hand to push back the thumb on your other hand until you feel a slight stretch.
- Stretch your fingers out, making a space between each finger. Relax your hand back to so it’s flat. You can do this a few times to stretch the tendons that run through each finger.
If you perform repetitive motion using your hands and wrists, whether it’s for work or a hobby, you could be at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Contact us at The Hand and Wrist Institute for more information about steps you can take to prevent it.