In this era of personal computers, laptops, and other high-tech electronic equipment, one would think the modern office-place would be virtually free of any workplace-related injuries. The bad news is all that repetitive hand and wrist motion is causing more and more cases of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
CTS is caused by pressure or aggravation of the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel of your wrist, causing pain, numbness and that tingling sensation. In fact, CTS affects more than 3 million Americans every year. While it’s virtually impossible that you will give up surfing the Web or using a computer at work, it is possible to take preventive measures that can reduce your risk of developing CTS. Next time you sit down at your computer, “try your hand” at the following…
Taking breaks to rest your hands and wrists
Every hour or two, stop what you’re doing, step away from your desk or workstation, and stretch your legs for about three minutes. During this time, you also may want to bend your wrists and hands backward and forwards. Then, when you’re ready to resume your repetitive task, consider changing your position or switching the use of one hand over another.
Maintaining the right form
If you are performing repetitive actions all day long, you need to be constantly aware of the position of your hands and wrists. If your work involves holding something, you should consciously relax your grip since most of us habitually apply more force than necessary when performing certain tasks. Also, be sure to distribute the pressure and motion evenly between your hand and wrist. Keep your wrist straight or only slightly bent. All too often, we flex and bend our wrists again and again, especially when using a keyboard, a cash register or other hands-on equipment. By using different positions, you put less stress on your hand or wrist, thus reducing the pain.
Performing hand and wrist exercises
Regular exercises help strength hand and wrist muscles, reducing your risk of developing CTS. Just five minutes per day of stretches and flexing will do the trick. The best time to do these exercises is before you start working or before you are tasked to perform repetitive hand and wrist actions.
Correcting your posture
What does posture have to do with stress placed on your hands and wrists? Everything. When you fail to sit up straight, for example, your shoulders tend to roll forward causing your neck and shoulder muscles to shorten, which, in turn, cause the nerves in your neck to become compressed. That affects the position and comfort of your wrists, hands, and fingers. So, don’t slouch or crouch over your keyboard. Good posture keeps your forearms, wrists, and arms straight and carpal tunnel syndrome at bay.
Wearing a wrist splint
Acting as a brace, a splint reduces stress by keeping your wrist in a neutral position. And it’s not just good to wear while working, but also at bedtime since you can’t control the position and movement of your wrist while you’re asleep. The splint will ensure that your wrist doesn’t bend too far forward or backward to aggravate the median nerve.
Talk to an Ergonomic Advisor
Many larger or more progressive companies offer access to an ergonomic advisor who is trained and certified in ensuring employees have a workplace that is healthy and beneficial. An ergonomic advisor can evaluate your workspace and how you occupy it, making recommendations as to how you can lessen your risk of CTS and other workplace-related injuries and syndromes. If your workplace doesn’t offer this service, speak with your orthopedist to help you evaluate your workplace posture.
By taking these cautionary steps, you will not reduce your risk of developing CTS, but also shorter your recovery from any unavoidable flare-ups.
Painful joints may not always be curable, but they are certainly treatable. If you are experiencing pain because of carpal tunnel syndrome or any other joint condition, an orthopedic physician can help. Call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880 to find out what can be done to help your joints.