Ergonomic Solutions to Reduce Your Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is often considered to be an adult problem, but be aware that it’s increasingly diagnosed at younger ages as a result of the popularity of electronic media. The good news is that you can prevent the problem, and the team at Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates is here to help you learn how. Give us a call if you have any questions. In the meantime, here are some ergonomic tips that help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

Why carpal tunnel syndrome develops

The median nerve travels down your arm and through your wrist before branching out to serve the thumb, index, middle, and half of your ring finger. The nerve travels through your wrist, using a narrow channel called the carpal tunnel -- a tight space that’s shared with nine tendons.

Any activity, injury, or disease that causes inflammation in the soft tissues inside the carpal tunnel, or that physically diminishes the size of the channel, places excessive pressure on the median nerve. That pressure causes carpal tunnel syndrome.

Hand movements contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome

Certain hand movements and positions increase pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. Although typing, texting, and playing video games are frequently associated with an increased risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, they aren’t the only activities that affect the nerve.

Holding a phone and hand movements typically performed by cooks, painters, metal workers, housekeepers, and mechanics are a few examples of other high-risk activities.

Three key factors increase your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome:

Force

Force refers to how tightly you hold a pencil or tool. Clenching or pinching more tightly than is needed to control the tool increases pressure on the nerve. Even the physical act of typing adds pressure every time you touch a key.

Repetition

Frequently repeating the same movement is a common source of pressure on the nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel. Repetitive movement leads to swelling of the soft tissues, which places stress on the nerve.

When your job or favorite pastime demands repetitive hand movements, you can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by take a short break every 30-60 minutes. Take a walk (which is also great for relieving stress on your back and keeping circulation flowing in your legs) and gently stretch and shake out your wrists. Our team at Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates can also show you some tendon-gliding exercises that relieve pressure on the nerve.

Wrist position

Wrist position is directly related to ergonomics, and it’s crucial to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome, so let’s talk about it in more detail.

Ergonomic tips that prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by maintaining wrist position

No matter what type of activity you perform, it’s vital to keep your wrist in a neutral position. A neutral position means your wrist is straight, and your fingers are all in natural, close proximity to one another. Your wrist is not in a neutral position any time your hand is bent up, down, left or right, or your thumb is extended away from the fingers.

Here are some of our top ergonomic tips for keeping your wrist in a neutral position:

Proper keyboard position

Your keyboard should be near the height of your elbows. When you type, your arms should hang naturally down from your shoulders. Then as you bend at the elbow, your lower arm, wrist, and hand should form a straight line as you type.

It’s also important for your keyboard to be flat or positioned to bend slightly downward (toward the back). Don’t use the collapsible legs that raise the back side of the keyboard because that bends your hands upward and extends your wrists.

Don’t rest your arms on the keyboard or desktop as you type because that also bends your wrist. Keep your arm straight in a way that lets your wrist float above the keyboard.

Tips for your mouse

Your mouse should be at the same level as your keyboard. It should also be large enough that you can place your hand comfortably over the mouse. A mouse that’s too large for your hand leads to over-gripping, while one that’s too small causes too much pinching. Both increase force that contributes to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Here’s another tip: Use your entire arm when moving your mouse, not your fingers or wrist motion, always maintaining a neutral wrist position.

Wrist rests

Wrist rests are designed to support a straight, neutral wrist position. However, it’s best to talk with your doctor here at Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates before using a wrist rest because they can increase the pressure on your median nerve.

If you’d like more tips for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome, or you need help with symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness in your wrist and hand, call Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates, or book an appointment online.

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