How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

As more of us work from home, we are at a higher risk of developing overuse injuries including carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a common condition that is associated with pain, numbness, and tingling in the wrist and hand. This occurs when the median nerve, one of the major nerves that travels through the forearm and hand, becomes compressed as it travels through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Common causes of this compression and irritation to the nerve include repetitive hand and finger use when typing and writing as well as poor wrist and hand positioning while performing these activities. Here are some suggestions to help prevent and treat this condition:

  1. Take breaks – If you find yourself doing a lot of typing throughout the day, make sure that you are taking a 10 minute break from typing every hour at the minimum.
  2. Keep your wrists neutral – Avoid excessive bending of the wrists in either direction to avoid increased compression on the nerve. As you type, try to keep your wrists in a neutral or slightly extended position
  3. Focus on posture – The positioning of the rest of your body, including your head, neck, and shoulders can contribute to symptoms all the way into the hands. As you sit at your desk, make sure that you maintain good posture by keeping your head upright, shoulders back, and avoiding a slouched posture.
  4. Stretch – Tightness in the muscles of the wrist and forearm can contribute to your symptoms. As you are taking a break every hour, stretch the muscles by pulling your hand and fingers back towards you and holding for 30 seconds at a time, as seen in the picture below.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Definition and Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

The carpal tunnel is a band of fibrous tissue that supports the wrist joint. The median nerve travels down the forearm through this tunnel to the hand. When there is a thickening of the tendon, compression or inflammation in this tunnel, you can have pain or numbness that travels to the thumb, index and middle fingers. Symptoms are usually worse during the night or first thing in the morning. This is most likely due to flexing the wrist while sleeping. Carpal tunnel syndrome can also lead to weakness in grip strength.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

Some people think carpal tunnel syndrome is most common among people who type all day at work. Surprisingly, there are more common causes. Carpal tunnel is most common among assembly line workers. Other occupations that can contribute to carpal tunnel are sewing, cleaning, using vibrating tools, and packaging meat or poultry. Other conditions that can cause carpal tunnel are pregnancy, obesity, diabetes, hypothyroidism, arthritis and many repetitive work injuries.

Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome can include the use of anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids, and physical therapy. A physical therapist will perform modalities such as ultrasound, massage, ice, heat and electrical stimulation to reduce inflammation and pain. A therapist will provide exercises consisting of stretching and strengthening exercises to improve the function of the hand.