If you’ve never experienced it, consider yourself lucky. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-a painful condition caused by swelling of the tendons in the wrists-is no joke. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from the affliction on a daily basis; many have had to quit their jobs or abandon favorite activities, and the worst part is… chances are, it could have been avoided.
CTS is caused by repetitive, unnatural movements such as typing for extended periods of time or manipulating machines that vibrate. Those that have experienced the onset of CTS firsthand often complain of intense pain, swelling, limited hand functions, loss of strength, even loss of feeling.
There are some basic steps you can take to prevent-or at least reduce-your risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
- Spend the time and money on outfitting your desk properly. Many of us who feel we don’t spend “that much” time on our home computers know that we’re sitting in an uncomfortable, unnatural position, but decide to just suffer through it. Bad idea. Even short amounts of time spent working in unnatural positions over the course of weeks can be harmful. Install an ergonomically correct keyboard tray on your computer desk.
- Keep your hands warm. If you work in a cold environment, either outside or a building where you can’t control the temperature (like a warehouse), wear fingerless gloves that keep the muscles in your wrists from cooling down and tightening.
- Alternate tasks to avoid overuse. Sure, logically it makes sense to enter all the orders on the computer at once and then move on to filing, finishing that in one fell swoop too. Don’t compromise the health of your body for efficiency. After all, how efficient will you be when you type more slowly due to wrist pain, or need to use both hands to pull heavy files? Take breaks and alternate tasks, giving your muscles time to relax and readapt.
- Reduce your force. Instead of pounding on your keyboard like you’re Mozart banging out a concerto, touch your keyboard lightly. Hold pens and levers with a relaxed grip. Use a sawing motion to cut rather than pressing down with your wrist. Paying attention to unnatural pressure on your hands and wrists is key to realizing when you’re putting yourself at risk. Treat your wrists well, and they’ll do the same for you.
The saying of “prevention is better than cure” is definitely a big must when it comes to CTS as it can be a very big hinderance in your day-to-day life tasks.