Offices, as a rule, are pretty safe places. Between government regulations and the market’s focus on skilled, computer-heavy jobs, the average office worker doesn’t experience many dangerous situations during a normal workday. Despite this, there are some hazards lurking in the cubicle farm.
Among them is carpal tunnel syndrome. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), carpal tunnel affects more than 8 million people each year. And carpal tunnel surgery is the second most popular musculoskeletal surgery, right behind back surgery. Luckily, with a few habit changes, you can avoid this condition and keep your work productivity high.
Want to learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome or do you think you may already have this condition? J. Michael Bennett, MD, and the rest of our team are here to help. Dr. Bennett is an expert orthopedic surgeon and will make sure you get the best care for your wrist and hand.
Carpal tunnel syndrome basics
The carpal tunnel itself is a narrow passageway that houses and protects the median nerve. This nerve provides sensation and touch to your palm, thumb and first three fingers. It also carries nerve signals to move the muscles around your thumb.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes pressed or squeezed in the wrist area. Although small in impact, the repeated action of typing and using a mouse can cause enough pressure to aggravate the median nerve. As these actions are repeated every day for multiple hours, the median nerve becomes more and more squeezed and the condition worsens.
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms
Symptoms start slowly, with a slight but frequent feeling of burning, tingling, or itching numbness. Most people usually feel the pain first felt in the palm, thumb, index, and middle fingers. Some people may also feel as though their hands and fingers are swollen and limp despite no discernable swelling.
Over time the burning, tingling, and itching get worse. Overall numbness also begins to increase, and you may find yourself lacking in grip strength and your sense of hot and cold touch. These feelings are typically accompanied by pain when performing the tasks that caused your carpal tunnel syndrome; typing or using a mouse could become unbearable.
How to avoid carpal tunnel
Now that you know the basics and the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, here are some tips on how to avoid this painful condition.
Use a soft touch
Although common in office workers, carpal tunnel is worse for those with demanding or harsh repetitive work. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that those working in a chicken processing plant were susceptible to high rates of carpal tunnel. With this in mind, be kind to your keyboard and mouse. Try typing with a lighter touch and clicking with less force.
Sit back for a second to stretch your hands and fingers. Make sure to shake out your wrists and bend your palms back and forth. If possible, switch up what tasks you’re performing. Interrupt typing blocks with phone calls or writing work.
Watch your form and overall posture
If you lean back or sit too far forward, your body position can affect the amount of pressure put upon your arms and wrists. In the same vein, try to adopt a typing form that doesn’t push your wrist up or down. Your keyboard should be about even with your elbows when sitting.
Pain and stiffness are more likely to occur in a cold environment. To counteract this, try fingerless gloves. While they may seem a bit nerdy, they’ll keep your hands warm and flexible.
If you think you have carpal tunnel, don’t wait for it to get worse. Call or make an appointment online at one of our Houston-area offices today.