Most office work is not physically dangerous. Sitting down is easier on the body than jobs that require heavy lifting, for example. But office workers are particularly prone to one type of injury: carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can develop as a result of repetitive motions — things you do every day, such as typing on a computer. However, you can take several small steps to try to reduce the impact of repetitive motions in office work. Here, Dr. Apurva Dalal provides information about carpal tunnel syndrome and offers tips for preventing it.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in your wrist that surrounds the median nerve as it enters your hand. Repetitive motions with your hand can inflame and irritate the median nerve within the carpal tunnel. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Numbness, tingling, or pain in your hand or wrist, especially in your thumb and first three fingers
- Weakness or clumsiness in your hands, which may make it difficult to perform fine-motor functions like buttoning a shirt
- Diminished grip strength
- Numbness and pain from your forearm toward your shoulder, which can make it challenging to carry objects
- A burning sensation in your arms or wrists
You may also notice swelling along with numbness and tingling, but this could indicate tendinitis. The two conditions are commonly confused because they have similar symptoms even though they have different causes.
Tips for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is relatively common among office workers, and women are at greater risk. However, you can do a great deal to prevent symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome from worsening.
Be aware of your wrist position
While you’re working, it’s important to hold your wrists in a neutral position, especially when typing or performing other repetitive motions. Many people have the tendency to hold their wrists in a flexed position, which places more strain on the wrist and makes pain more likely.
Correct the ergonomics of your workstation
You probably rarely think about the setup of your workstation, even though you spend so many hours a day there. It’s important that your chair is at the correct height and angled well for you to properly use your keyboard.
While working on a keyboard, keep your hands straight rather than holding your wrists above the keys. When you hold your wrists above the keyboard, you’re more likely to place strain on your hands and wrists. Place your hands in a gentle, natural position that feels comfortable.
Stretch out your wrists frequently
Be sure to take brief breaks every hour to stretch out your hands, wrists, and fingers. Try shaking out your hands gently and bending your fingers forward and backward to stretch them out.
Consider your sleeping position
Be mindful of aggravating your wrists outside of the office, too. Avoid sleeping on your wrists or hands, especially in a flexed position. Many office workers find it beneficial to wear a wrist brace while sleeping to help them avoid inadvertently putting additional strain on the wrists before their work day even starts.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is easy to prevent if you pay attention to your habits as you work. If you continue to have pain in your hands and wrists, call Tri-State Orthopaedics or book an appointment online to learn about effective treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome.