Many factors contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), but simple steps can alleviate or even prevent the pain, tingling, and numbness associated with the condition.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a passageway of ligament and bones in the base of the hand that houses nine tendons and the median nerve, which runs all the way up your arm and into your neck. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression or other injury to the median nerve running through the passageway.
Who is at risk?
Women are three times as likely to experience carpal tunnel syndrome than men, but other risk factors include heredity, performing work with repetitive hand motions, fluid retention, and injury.
Whether you're experiencing symptoms now or simply looking to stave off problems, these 5 tips can prevent or reduce carpal tunnel pain:
- Fix your posture
Poor posture related to your desk office setup is a common culprit of carpal tunnel pain. For good posture, keep your feet on the floor (or on a footrest), sit with your back and shoulders supported against your chair, and allow your elbows to rest at your sides with your wrists straight and arms at 90-degree angles. Your computer monitor should be at eye level.
- Take breaks
Taking breaks from typing or performing other repetitive tasks can help relieve nerve tension and relax your hands and wrists. Throughout the day, take short breaks to stand up and shake your hands as though you’re air-drying them. You may also be interested in our blog, 4 Tips for Staying Active at Work.
- Angle for comfort
Wrist rests, which fit beneath or along the full length of a keyboard, help reduce strain and keep your wrists in proper alignment while typing. A mouse pad with a wrist cushion offers the same benefit. Other options for improving wrist alignment include swapping your regular mouse for a trackball or joystick version and replacing your standard keyboard with a more ergonomical split design.
The median nerve responsible for carpal tunnel pain runs from your hand to your neck, so tension in your upper body can contribute to CTS symptoms. Several times a day, spend a few minutes stretching your hands, wrists, neck and shoulders.Hands: Clench each hand into a fist and then spread your fingers. Do this 5-6 times.Wrists: Holding your arm out straight in front of you, gently bend your hand straight down, then up, holding each stretch for about 10 seconds. Repeat with the other hand.Neck: Place your right hand on your left shoulder to keep it down, then tilt your head gently to the right and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Shoulders: In a standing position, roll your shoulders in a forward circle 10 times, then reverse direction and roll 10 times.
- Loosen your grip
Be mindful of your grip if your job requires holding a power tool, hand tool, pencil, or steering wheel, for long periods. Loosen your grip to relax your hands and forearms as much as you’re safely able.
Carpal tunnel syndrome sometimes requires more aggressive intervention, including surgery, so be sure to talk to your health care provider if you continue to experience pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands.
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