If your job has you sitting in front of the computer screen, using repetitive hand tools or driving all day, you may be at increased risk for developing Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) – an extremely painful hand and wrist condition caused by excessive compression of the wrist’s primary nerve.
With most of the surgeries performed each year to release the effects of CTS linked to work-related activities, it is in the best interests of employees and employers alike to find ways to optimize the work day and workspace to decrease the likelihood of you developing CTS.
While there is no proven method for avoiding or preventing the onset of CTS symptoms altogether, certain precautions can be adopted to reduce stress on the hands and wrists.
Here are five tips to help employees avoid developing Carpal tunnel syndrome on the job:
1. Make sure your workspace is ergonomically designed
Setting up your workspace according to ergonomic guidelines – focusing on the correct placement of your desk, computer monitor, keyboard chair and other work-related accessories and tools can help reduce stress on your body and subsequently keep Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms at bay.
Many ergonomically-designed office tools, such as a split or jointed-type keyboard, are meant to facilitate the maintaining of a natural body position and preventing uncomfortable bodily strain while working and are available on the market.
In addition, many businesses contract the services of ergonomic physical therapists to assess and modify company workstations according to ergonomic standards. Remember, it is of utmost importance that your wrists be in their natural position while you work.
2. Maintain correct form and posture
Correct body form keeps your muscles from shortening and compressing your nerves, causing pain and discomfort. Improving your posture and keeping your wrists as relaxed and as straight as possible while you work, avoiding bending the joints all the way up or down, eases and reduces nerve pressure that can adversely affect your wrists, fingers and hands.
The optimal seated position would be so that your spinal cord rests against the back of your chair, your shoulders are relaxed and your computer screen and other materials needed for typing are at eye level. Try to keep your feet planted firmly on the floor, to help maintain this ideal form.
3. Keep your hands warm
Studies have shown that if your hands are cold, you are more likely to feel pain and stiffness while on the job. If you can, adjust your office’s thermostat to a pleasant temperature. If this is not a possibility, try wearing fingerless gloves while you work.
4. Break and stretch – regularly
Pause for three-minute mini “shake and stretch” hand and wrist exercise breaks throughout the day to promote increased blood circulation to the wrists, fingers, hands, forearms, neck and shoulders.
The exercises will help counteract the tightening and shortening of the muscles and ligaments that result from hours of engaging in repetitive work, reducing strain and discomfort and relaxing and invigorating the body while warming the wrist area.
Know your body. If your wrists feel in need of a break, if you begin to feel a sense of numbness, tingling or pain in your hands or wrists, or if your hands feel swollen, you start to feel weak or can no longer sense the difference between hot and cold, stop what you are doing at once.
Do not ignore these signs. If, after a short break and some exercises the sensations do not disappear, contact your local health provider for further assistance.
5. Maintain your overall health
Recent studies found that certain conditions and diseases, including diabetes, arthritis and thyroid problems can potentially increase your likelihood of developing CTS. If however, you maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen, manage your stress levels, take time to relax on a regular basis, visit your health practitioner regularly to control your health conditions and avoid adverse activities such as smoking and illicit drug use, you can reduce your odds of developing CTS on the job.
Whether you work in front of a computer screen, at a cash register or on the assembly line, it is exceedingly important to adopt and practice good habits.
Read more to reduce your odds of suffering from a Carpal tunnel injury on the job. Lower your chances of developing CTS at work by adopting the five tips mentioned above; your hands and wrists will be eternally grateful.