How to Avoid Putting Yourself at Risk for Carpal Tunnel

Carpal Tunnel Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates

About 5% of working adults develop carpal tunnel syndrome, and women are 10 times more likely to face the problem than men. Many of them could prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by taking simple steps to avoid the activities that pinch the nerve.

At Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates we want to help keep your wrist and hand healthy, so we put together this list of our top six tips for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Avoid carpal tunnel syndrome by eliminating the cause

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve becomes pinched inside a narrow passageway through your wrist called the carpal tunnel. Although several problems can contribute to the condition, this nerve compression is most often caused by repetitive movements of your hands and wrists.

Your risk further increases if your wrists are flexed up or down while you engage in the repeated motion or your activity involves force. For example, squeezing or tightly holding a tool or instrument increases the force, which is transferred to the nerve and tendons that travel through the carpal tunnel. Our tips for avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome focus on lowering your risks by dealing with these three factors.

Tip 1: Lighten your grip

We realize that if you’re swinging a hammer or baseball bat, you can’t lighten your grip much, but there are many activities in which you may be using more force than is needed. If you spend a lot of time at a keyboard, think about how hard you tap the keys. When you hold a pen, scissors, or even your smartphone, do you grip it tightly? If you get in the habit of using less force and a lighter touch, you’ll lower your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Tip 2: Take frequent breaks

Take a break from your hand/wrist activity every 15 minutes. You don’t need to take a long break; it only takes a few minutes to give the nerve and tendons time to relax. During your break, gently shake out your hands, roll your hands around in circles, and stretch your hands and arms before getting back to work.

Tip 3: Pay attention to wrist form

 

When you bend your wrist up or down, you put extra pressure on the tissues in the carpal tunnel. You significantly increase your risk for carpal tunnel syndrome when you flex your wrists, while engaging in your repetitive activity.

 

You may not even be aware that you flex your wrists. Pay careful attention to your wrist position for several days to see whether it’s always straight or if you unconsciously bend it while you work.

You can probably correct this problem by staying aware of it and making adjustments as needed. Before long, maintaining a neutral wrist position will become a habit. But if you struggle with this issue, you can get a wrist brace to ensure you don’t stress the nerve.

Tip 4: Wear wrist support at night

You may have good wrist form during the day, so your wrists and hands feel fine. But when you wake every morning, your wrist is sore or your fingers tingle. That’s because many people sleep with their wrist flexed. You also put an extreme amount of stress on the nerve in the carpal tunnel if you sleep with your wrist bent while your hand is under your head.

If you’ve started to develop symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, like tingling, numbness, or weakness in your hand or fingers, wearing wrist support at night may be all you need to relieve the problem.  

Tip 5: Improve your ergonomics

Ergonomics refers to the way you position your workstation to maintain your posture and the proper wrist position. Adjust the height of your keyboard, so you can keep your wrists straight and hold your hands in line with your forearms when you work at the keyboard.

Tip 6: Regularly stretch your wrist, and do tendon gliding exercises

You’ll lower the chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome if you keep your wrist flexible with stretches and perform tendon gliding exercises. Gliding exercises help maintain free movement of the nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel. These exercises may also help reduce inflammation, and they’re all simple to perform. For example, one tendon gliding exercise has you make and then relax a fist one finger at a time.

If you have symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, however, we encourage you to come in to Pennsylvania Orthopedic Associates for an exam before you start wrist exercises. We can customize your therapy and get you on the road to healing your carpal tunnel.

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