Do you work in an office? If you answered yes, the nature of your profession may put you at risk to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on a nerve in your hand called the median nerve, at a specific location on your wrist that is known as the carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the flexor tendons that pass through the carpal tunnel outgrow the space, and pressure builds up around the median nerve causing pain and discomfort. If you work in an office setting, the repetitive aspects of your job, such as typing, note taking, or clicking your mouse, create specific risk factors. After taking a closer look at the risks, we will offer some ways for you to reduce the likelihood of developing, or dealing more effectively, with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Performing Activities With Repetitive Motions
Over time, engaging in activities that are characterized by repetitive motions is a prime risk factor for office workers. There is no one activity or condition that directly causes carpal tunnel syndrome, but there are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing this condition. If you work in an administrative capacity, stapling may be an activity that you perform countless times on a weekly basis. For other office workers, typing on your computer takes up a majority of the day. Given the impact of technology in our lives, it is not uncommon for office workers to spend hours upon hours on their computers typing away. The repetitive essence of these tasks places pressure on your fingers and wrists. Some of the symptoms of carpal tunnel include wrist pain that might radiate to the forearm, arm, neck, or shoulders, numbness and tingling in certain fingers, weakness of grip, and severe nighttime hand pain.
Tips for Office Workers
While you may not be able to change your daily responsibilities at work, take breaks from typing throughout the day. It is easy to get in the zone and lose track of time, but take a break every 30 minutes or so and stretch. This will not only relieve pressure to your hands and wrists, but it will also give your mind a rest. In addition to stretching, get out of your chair and take a short walk. If you are having a particularly busy day and taking breaks throughout the day are just not an option, try to add some variety to your routine. Type for a while, then perform tasks that don’t require typing, and then get back to typing. Repeat throughout the day so you’re not typing for hours on end.
Constant Pressure on the Median Nerve
Placing pressure on the median nerve for extended periods of time is another risk factor in developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Similar to performing activities with repetitive motions, this is an activity that is common for office workers. Working on your computer means that you are typing frequently, but also that you are reading and analyzing information or data that appears on your computer screen. Based on the setup of your workstation, your hands and wrists may be in an awkward position that you do not notice as you are focused on the task at hand. You may not even realize that you have been resting your wrists on your desk for multiple hours. There are several simple and affordable ways to reduce the amount of pressure that you put on your wrist at work.
Tips for Office Workers
The simplest way to reduce pressure on your wrist is to take your hand off of your desk when it doesn’t have to be there. Instead, rest your hands on a softer surface such as your lap or by your side. You can also purchase a padded wrist rest to relieve pain and to take stress of your wrists while you are using a mouse. Ergonomic keyboards are designed to allow you to use a more natural wrist position while you are typing. They are another great method to alleviate constant pressure on the median nerve in an office setting.
Awkward Hand Positions
If you work in an office, it is possible that your hands are placed in awkward positions. For example, you may have to hold your office phone for extended periods of time as you speak to clients, teammates, vendors, partners, third parties, etc. Holding unnatural positions may place a great deal of stress on your hands and wrists that accumulate over time.
Tips for Office Workers
An easy remedy is to switch hands when you are using a phone for a long duration. While it may be natural for you to use your dominant hand while you use the phone, try using your other hand. If you happen to work in a cold office environment, bring a pair of fingerless gloves to work. This can reduce stiffness in your fingers and give you increased flexibility when your hand is placed in an awkward position.
Another risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome is obesity. On a general level, exercising regularly is always a good idea. Beyond the multiple long-term health benefits, staying fit reduces your risk of developing this condition. Join your local gym, participate in yoga or a spin class, or engage in resistance or cardio training.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed based on your medical history, a physical examination, and additional tests. If you do end up developing carpal tunnel, we are here to help! There are several treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome and our doctors have the expertise to help you with your unique situation. If surgery ends up being a necessity, we employ the right carpal tunnel surgery option for you. To learn more about the options, including our minimally invasive no stitch procedure, visit our website. If you would like to schedule an appointment, we are open 24/7 to treat your hand and wrist problems.