Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is one of the most common causes of wrist pain, affecting at least 3% of the population in the United States. CTS happens when the median nerve becomes compressed where it passes through your wrist, a narrow space called the carpal tunnel. Repetitive movements and strain are the most common causes of CTS, but diabetes and other illnesses can play a role, too.
With practices in Sugar Land and Houston, Texas, J. Michael Bennett, MD, PA, is skilled in treating the painful symptoms of CTS. But ideally, you want to prevent CTS in the first place. Here are eight things you can do to reduce your risks of developing this painful problem.
1. Don’t smoke
What does smoking have to do with your wrists? For one thing, smoking interferes with circulation and healing, which means it can be more challenging for your hands to ward off CTS. Research has also linked smoking with worse symptoms and more severe CTS overall.
2. Take frequent breaks
Using your hands for hours at a time puts a lot of strain on muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Taking regular breaks to stretch your hands or switch tasks could be just what your wrists need to avoid cramps and other problems.
3. Do some stretches
A few gentle exercises can be a great way to release muscle strain and improve circulation. Try rotating your wrists in slow circles, and flex and bend your fingers. Here are three more exercises you can do anytime — at your desk, in front of the TV, even waiting in traffic.
4. Keep your wrists warm
If you work in an air-conditioned office or outdoors when it’s cold, donning a pair of gloves — even fingerless ones — can help keep your wrist muscles flexible, so they’re less likely to get strained and tired. Plus, the added warmth will improve circulation, giving your wrists plenty of oxygen and nutrients.
5. Be careful how you sleep
Snoozing with your hands tucked under your head might look cute in cartoons, but in real life, this position strains the wrists and often causes cramps. Try to avoid any sleeping position where your wrists are bent or curved. Wrist splints can also help you keep your wrists in a neutral position while sleeping.
6. Practice good posture
When you slouch, slump, or hunch your shoulders, you tend to hold your arms too far down, too. That means extra strain on your wrists. Make sure your computer is properly positioned, too. Not only will it help your wrists, but it can prevent neck strain, as well. The Mayo Clinic offers these tips. If you type a lot, using special padded supports for your wrists may help, too.
7. Relax your grip
If you spend a lot of time writing or doing other work that requires gripping, remember to relax your grip from time to time. Many of us get so wrapped up in what we’re doing, we wind up tightening our grip far beyond what’s necessary, adding to the strain our wrists experience.
8. Get treatment early
If you have CTS symptoms, waiting to get treatment not only prolongs your pain, but it can make it a lot harder to fully recover, too. Many people with CTS benefit from physical therapy and medications to reduce pain and inflammation. For severe symptoms, carpal tunnel release surgery can provide relief.
If you’re having CTS symptoms, like pain, numbness, or weakness in your hands or fingers, don’t put off your treatment. Call Dr. Bennett to schedule an appointment or book an office visit online today.