Repetitive duties lead to repetitive motions, and these contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. Do you feel pain or numbness in your palm? Do your fingers swell up? When it moves from the wrist to your arm, it is likely you are suffering from carpal tunnel.
Consider all the repetitive motions you do during the day, such as reaching, typing and driving. These types of activities can lead to carpal tunnel, which affects the median nerve that runs the length of your forearm into your palm. Carpal tunnel squeezes this nerve affecting your ability to hold onto objects and eroding the thumb muscles.
Typical Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel
Your symptoms typically begin with an itching or burning sensation in your hand, especially around the first three fingers. Your fingers probably feel swollen, and the symptoms worsen in the morning hours. The symptoms may disappear for a time and reappear in the early stages. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs more frequently in women than men, and women with the syndrome may have smaller carpal tunnels than women who don’t.
Tips for Avoiding Carpal Tunnel
So, that means a few risk factors exist outside of your control, but you can take action to reduce your likelihood of getting the syndrome by following these five tips for avoiding carpal tunnel in the office.
Strength Train and Stretch
Exercise keeps you healthy and happy, so don’t forget to stretch your arms and fingers as often as you stretch your legs. Frequently shake and stretch your hands and wrists. Try out yoga to reduce your risk of carpal tunnel and increase flexibility, such as gently rotating the wrists through their full turn capacity, and shake out your wrists for 30 seconds. You should always warm up your fingers, wrists and arms before yoga or any other workout.
Make an Ergonomic Space for Work
Spend most of your day at a computer? Place it right in front of you, and adjust your office chair so your forearms align with the keyboard. Invest in the right ergonomic gear. Get a mousepad and keyboard pad. Rest your hardworking hands in style and the proper, natural position. Vertical mouses also let you rest your thumb rather than dangle it.
Take time also to adjust your chair. Do your feet rest evenly on the floor? Do your hands and wrists naturally align with the keyboard? Are you slouching? Do you feel comfortable? Use a small pillow against your back for better alignment. Check the monitor to make it level with your eyes.
Take Breaks and Shake it Out
Your wrists need a break, too. Rotate tasks so that you change positions frequently. Keep your wrists straight and naturally placed when you work. When you feel tired, shake your wrists out.
Working in a cold environment? Invest in fingerless gloves to go with your space heater. You’ll still keep up with your typing speed.
Get a professional massage or give your hands and wrists one to relieve symptoms throughout the day. Apply light pressure for 30 seconds to your arms, wrists, palms and fingers. Run your thumb and forefinger down the length of your arm for 60 seconds. Use circular motions to increase and regulate blood flow.
Ice It + Take NSAIDs
Use ice to reduce swelling along the median nerve. It will provide relief and you can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin, to calm symptoms.
If the symptoms persist, make an appointment with your doctor to look more closely. If you have chronic carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery may be a helpful option, but prevention is the best medicine.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.