Proven ways to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and fingers. Activities involving repetitive hand movement put you at risk for this syndrome that can hinder mobility so that you may have trouble picking up your coffee cup.

Proven ways to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome

Causes and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by repetitive hand movements, particularly if you grip something while your wrist is bent. This inflames tendons in the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway that runs through the wrist and enables you to flex your fingers. The inflamed tendons put pressure on the median nerve that supplies feeling to your fingers.
  • Symptoms include pain, numbness and tingling in the affected hand or fingers, especially the thumb, index and middle fingers. The pain and numbness may be worse at night. You may find you have trouble holding objects tightly and have weakness in your thumb.

Risk factors

  • If your life involves typing on a computer all day, cutting meat, using sign language, knitting, woodcarving or any other repetitive task involving your wrists and hands, you could develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Other risk factors include rheumatoid arthritis, hyporthyroidism, type 1 diabetes and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Pregnancy and menopause also increase risk.

8 Suggestions to help you avoid or alleviate carpal tunnel

1. Embrace ergonomics. Good posture can help you avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.

  • Keep your wrists relatively straight — not bent up or down. Here are some other ways to reduce your risk of injury.
  • Adjust your chair. Sit against the chair back, shoulders relaxed, elbows at your sides, wrists straight, both feet flat on the floor or on a foot rest.
  • Use a wrist rest. Put it under the keyboard, but don't rest your wrists on it.
  • Don't put the mouse on a different level than the keyboard.
  • If you can type with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, your keyboard is at the right height.
  • Place the monitor directly in front of you, with the top of the screen at eye level or below. You should be looking down slightly as you type.

2. Stretch. It's also important to give your wrists a rest. Flex your fingers up and down 10 times whenever you've been away from your workstation or haven't been using your hands for more than 5 minutes. Take a break every 20 minutes.

3. Vary your tasks. If you just spent two hours typing, switch to drafting an outline using a pen and paper (the fatter the pen, the better), meet with co-workers or read a hard copy report.

4. Use a wrist splint. Wearing a splint that keeps your wrist in a neutral position can help prevent the kind of damage that turns into carpal tunnel syndrome. People with early signs of carpal tunnel wore custom-fitted wrist-hand splints nightly for six weeks. After six weeks, about half reported that their symptoms improved. Even if you don't wear the splint every night, slip it on when you feel the first painful twinges.

5. Use the right tools. Product designers have caught onto our need for more ergonomically correct tools. Restock with tools that distribute the force of your grip across the muscle between the base of your thumb and your little finger, not the centre of your hand.

6. Lose weight. If you're overweight, your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome is twice that of someone of normal weight.

7. Try yoga. It can help you manage stress — which may contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome — and also strengthen your wrist grip.

8. Up your B. Vitamin B6 is essential to healthy nerves like the median nerve in your carpel tunnel. It's worth increasing your intake from food — yellowfin tuna, cod, roasted chicken or turkey breast are good sources — or take supplements — 200 milligrams daily.

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