If you suspect that your occupation or hobbies may be impacting your hand and wrist health, you’re probably concerned about the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms like tingling or numbness in your fingers might be your red flags. The good news is, that there’s a range of actions you can take to safeguard yourself and possibly prevent any symptoms from worsening.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a result of pressure on the median nerve, responsible for sensation in your thumb and fingers, except the pinky. This nerve passes through the carpal tunnel, a narrow path in your wrist made of bone and ligaments. Swelling in the wrist can compress this tunnel, pinching the median nerve and causing the associated symptoms.
While there’s no definitive way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, minimizing stress and strain on your hands and wrists can potentially ward off worsening symptoms.
Use a Lighter Touch
Be mindful of the amount of force you exert in your daily activities. Often, we’re accustomed to using more pressure than necessary. Practice using tools with a lighter grip and employing gentler keystrokes on your keyboard.
Regular breaks to stretch or flex your hands are essential. Aim for a 10-15 minute break every hour, especially if your tasks involve vibratory tools or extensive force.
Embrace Regular Stretching
Incorporate hand stretches during your breaks to alleviate tension:
- Make a fist and extend your fingers straight out. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Open your hand from a fist and spread your fingers as far as you can. Repeat 5-10 times.
Maintain a Neutral Wrist Position
Avoid extreme bending of your wrist. Keeping your wrist straight and in a neutral position relieves pressure on the median nerve. Using a wrist brace while sleeping or during symptom-triggering activities might assist in maintaining this neutral position.
Try not to repeat the same hand movements frequently. Switch hands for tasks or alternate activities to prevent overuse of particular muscles.
Be Mindful of Posture
Poor posture, particularly rolled shoulders, can impact wrist health. Proper body posture prevents the shortening of muscles and nerve compression that can exacerbate wrist issues.
Maintaining warm hands and wrists can alleviate stiffness and discomfort. Fingerless gloves or warmth-inducing measures can help in colder environments.
Discuss changes to your workstation or tools with your supervisor. Adjusting the workspace and ergonomic tools might alleviate symptoms. For computer users, ergonomic keyboard setups and elbow positioning are crucial.
Consult an Occupational Therapist
An occupational therapist can guide you with exercises to stretch and strengthen your hand and wrist muscles. They can also recommend modifications to your daily routine to minimize hand and wrist strain.
These measures can play a key role in maintaining hand and wrist health, reducing the likelihood of carpal tunnel symptoms, and alleviating the pressure on the median nerve.