Common Methods of Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
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Carpal tunnel syndrome is an increasingly common and painful affliction that harms millions of workers world wide every year. Carpal tunnel syndrome is an affliction that occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes impinged at the wrist junction. The carpal tunnel is a narrow area consisting of the transverse carpal ligament and the carpal bones located at the base of the hand. This is the area where the median nerve can become impinged, hence the reason it is called carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome will cause pain, weakness, paresthesia (pins and needles) and numbness in the hand and wrist, along with increased weakness and decreased strength. The best way to deal with carpal tunnel syndrome is to take the steps to prevent it.
The first most important step in prevention is knowledge. Carpal tunnel syndrome most often affects workers who have jobs that require constant static or repeated movements, such as factory work, grocers, or computer workers. Carpal tunnel syndrome is not relegated just to these occupations, but it is much more common. It is the consistent static motion such as gripping a steering wheel, holding a book and/or repeated motions performed over and over that cause this disorder. Due to musculature development and wrist size, women are almost three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than men. The worst profession for carpal tunnel syndrome is not data entry and other computer jobs, but it is actually assemblers in a factory. Recent studies estimate that approximately three of every 10,000 workers lost considerable time from work because of carpal tunnel syndrome. Those restricted to light duty is much higher.
Catching the problem early is extremely important. The earlier the disorder can be recognized and addressed, the better. A physical of the hands, arms, shoulders, and neck can help determine if a worker’s pains are in any way related to daily activities or to any type of disorder. The wrist should be examined for discoloration, swelling, tenderness, or warmth. Each finger should be tested for sensation, and the muscles at the base of the hand should be examined. The best way to decrease onset of injury in the workplace is for workers to do conditioning. Workers can take a short amount of time to perform stretching and exercises to maintain muscle balance, take frequent rest breaks, and use correct posture and wrist position. Maintaining proper wrist position is essential. In a factory setting, jobs can be rotated among workers.
Some great tips to follow at work:
Avoid activities requiring excessive up-and-down and side-to-side movements of the wrist. These are the repetitive motions most likely to cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Position your hands properly while working. Wrists should always be parallel and elbows should make a 90-degree angle to your work surface.
Situation permitting, take frequent breaks to stand, walk, stretch and exercise the entire upper extremity to maintain balance of the muscles, thereby reducing impingement of the associated joints.
Avoid direct pressure on the heel of the hand. This puts pressure on the wrist.
If working with a keyboard, use correct posture, holding your hand above the keyboard in order to help keep your wrists in an appropriate position.
Following these tips is a great way to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. However if you do have an early mild case of carpal tunnel, there are still ways to minimize the damage and prevent it from getting worse, even while keeping the same job. It is important for the worker to take all necessary precautions as soon as he/she believes there might be any damage. Once you are sure that you have early stages of carpal tunnel, be sure to pay attention to the following tips.
- Take more frequent breaks from the pain-causing movement.
- Perform active and passive stretches
- Perform exercises to correct muscle imbalances in the hand and forearm.
- Keep your keyboard level at your desk, and be sure to take advantage of any wrist friendly keyboards or other equipment that might be in the office. Some larger companies offer ergonomic consultation for their employees; if it is available, make use of it.
- Perform correct exercises and stretches.
- Use cold therapy on the wrist. (Acute Phase)
- Have someone massage your neck, back, shoulders, forearms and hands to relieve tension in the forearm and wrist.
- Wear splints at night. (Nighttime only) Most doctors will recommend a forearm brace, a narrow cuff worn just below the elbow that reduces fluid content in the carpal tunnel. (Daytime use will increase muscle imbalance and severity of symptoms.)
- Minimize static flexion and repetitive hand movements when possible.
- Switch up tasks to reduce strain.
- Take breaks at least once an hour, to rest, shake your hands and loosen everything up. (It is best to take a brief rest break every 30-45 minutes.)
General lifestyle tips:
- Keep hands warm. Warmth can help increase circulation, which will help ease the swelling and pain.
- Keep active! Get regular aerobic exercise such as walking or swimming.
- Do your best to cut caffeine intake and smoking, both of which reduce blood flow and therefore worsen the situation.
- And most important, there are many muscle balancing exercises that doctors and therapists recommend that help restore stability in the joint and reduce impingement, thereby alleviating the pain and also stabilizing the carpal tunnel.
Ask your doctor about these exercises and what the actual benefits are for full results.
Follow these guidelines and you will be able to lead a healthier lifestyle, free of the pain and anguish that can be caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.
Jeff Anliker, LMT & BSI Staff – Includes Therapists, Inventors and Researchers that work together to provide information to Corporations, Consumers and Medical Facilities around the world for the treatment of muscle imbalances affecting the upper extremity.
Editor’s info: Jeff Anliker is a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) in the state of Oregon, specializing in sports-related injuries and performance enhancement. As a Therapist, Bodybuilder, Author, Inventor and Researcher, Jeff Anliker has extensive knowledge on human biomechanics and its implementation in the prevention and rehabilitation of injuries as well as its use for enhancing performance in professional athletes, musicians, office workers and anyone else wanting to perform at an optimal level. Prevention Training is Performance Training. Stay well!