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
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
- Take more frequent breaks from the pain-causing
- 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
- Perform correct carpal tunnel stretches and exercises.
- Use cooling pain gel on the wrist.
- Have someone massage your neck, back, shoulders,
forearms and hands to relieve tension in the forearm
- 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
- Minimize static flexion and repetitive hand movements
- Switch up tasks to reduce strain.
- Take breaks at least once an hour if possible,
to rest, shake your hands and loosen everything
General lifestyle tips:
- Keep hands warm. If this means buying special
gloves, do it. Warmth increases circulation, which
will help ease the swelling and ease the pain that
carpal tunnel would otherwise bring.
- 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
- 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 carpal tunnel stretches and 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.