Carpal tunnel is a condition that affects many people. The symptoms include numbness, pain, and tingling in the hand. Carpal tunnel affects the thumb and all fingers except for the small finger, or the pinky. This condition occurs when the median nerve, which travels through the arm and to the hand, becomes compressed and pinched over time.
Sometimes carpal tunnel is caused by chronic conditions like diabetes or trauma to the hand. Often, however, carpal tunnel is caused by repetitive movements like typing on the keyboard or using vibrating power tools. This everyday use of the hands can cause swelling and pressure on the median nerve, leading to damage that has a long-lasting effect.
Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent carpal tunnel. The following tips can help people who are at risk for carpal tunnel avoid this debilitating condition.
Give your hands a break from time to time. Whether you’re knitting, typing, playing the piano, or working with power tools, your hands need a break from the movements you’re making.
Set an alarm on your phone or place an alarm clock by your workstation, and take two- or three-minute breaks every hour or so. Taking breaks gives your hands a chance to relax and allows your muscles to loosen.
Some people sleep on their hands in awkward, damaging positions. You may be able to correct this problem by simply changing the position that you sleep in.
If you can’t fall asleep in any other position than the one you assume naturally, you may need to sleep with a brace on your hands. Talk to your doctor to find out whether or not your hand positions during sleep could lead to problems, and if so, what kind of brace you need in order to prevent this from happening.
Purchase Ergonomic Tools to Do the Job
Often the standard tools that we use to complete everyday tasks bend our bodies into unnatural positions. Keyboards and hand tools are an excellent example of this. Ergonomic keyboards and hand tools are available, but they must be purchased specially.
If you do one type of task with your hands a lot throughout the day, make sure that the tool you use is the most ergonomic tool available. If it’s not, your doctor may be able to point out some products that are helpful for preventing strain on the muscles.
Get an Ergonomic Assessment at Work
Often, it’s what people do at work that puts them at the most risk for carpal tunnel. Work with your company’s HR department, safety coordinator, or risk coordinator to get a proper ergonomic assessment of your workstation. If you ever experience symptoms of carpal tunnel after an activity done at work, report this to your company’s safety coordinator as soon as possible.
Pay Attention to Body Language
Although the position of the hands is important when avoiding carpal tunnel, this is not the only factor to consider. Posture and arm position play a big role in whether or not you’re at risk for carpal tunnel.
Hunching forward can compress the nerves and create conditions that are right for carpal tunnel. Work with a medical professional to correct your posture while sitting and standing. Sometimes correcting posture involves doing exercises or wearing a special posture corrector. Your medical professional can help you pick the right products for you.
Yoga helps strengthen the muscles and correct poor posture. It can also open up the blood vessels to improve circulation. Some yoga poses can be done in small spaces and during breaks at work, which makes yoga the perfect activity to do when you’re giving your hands a short break. Not all yoga poses are helpful for preventing carpal tunnel, so talk to a yoga instructor to get advice that can help with this particular type of problem.
Change Positions Frequently
One of the things that puts you at risk for carpal tunnel is assuming the same position over and over again. Shift positions regularly to complete your normal tasks.
This may involve using different tools to do the same thing, or it may involve getting creative with the one tool you have. Shifting positions will help your hands maintain strength and will give your nerves a break at the same time.
Work With a Medical Professional
If you’ve noticed numbness or tingling in your hands, you could have the beginning stages of carpal tunnel. Work with a medical professional to ensure that you receive treatment before the problem becomes very serious. Contact a medical professional as soon as possible to make an appointment.
If you have more questions about carpal tunnel, contact Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and help you decide if you need assistance from a medical professional.