Florida Pain Medicine is a rotation site and teaching facility for USF Health ACGME Pain Medicine Fellowship and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency.

Office Worker? Do These Things to Avoid Carpal Tunnel

Working at a computer (whether in the office or at home) is one of the top risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome. You may not be able to avoid the repetitive hand and finger movements required by your job, but you can still lower your risk of developing carpal tunnel by following these five tips from our team at Florida Pain Medicine.

Signs you have carpal tunnel

When you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you have a pinched nerve in the carpal tunnel. This nerve, the median nerve, travels down your arm, passes through the narrow carpal tunnel in your wrist, and goes into your hand.

The nerve shares the carpal tunnel with multiple tendons. If the tendons become inflamed (tendonitis), they pinch the nerve against the immovable tissues surrounding the tunnel.

The damaged nerve affects function and sensation in your hand and fingers, causing symptoms such as:

Without treatment, the nerve damage worsens, becoming permanent and affecting your ability to use your hand and fingers

Preventing carpal tunnel

To avoid carpal tunnel, you need to prevent tendonitis, a condition that’s most often caused by repeating the same hand and finger movements. Even if you can’t avoid repetitive movements, you can still lower your risk for carpal tunnel by following these five steps.

1. Take breaks

Taking routine breaks relaxes the tendons and offsets the stress of repetitive movement. You don’t need to take long breaks, but try to stop working on a regular basis. Shaking out your hands, rolling your hands in circles, and stretching your arms and hands relieves pressure on the nerve. 

2. Keep your wrist in neutral position

Your wrist is in a neutral position when your arm, wrist, and hand form a straight line. Bending your wrist up or down places extra stress on the tissues in the carpal tunnel.

It’s crucial to keep your wrist in a neutral position because your risk of developing carpal tunnel skyrockets when you bend your wrists while working on the keyboard or engaging in other repetitive activities. If you struggle to maintain a neutral position, consider wearing a brace or changing your ergonomics.

3. Improve ergonomics

Ergonomics refers to the way you move while working. Good ergonomics keeps your wrist in a neutral position and also ensures good posture that helps prevent neck and back problems.

You can improve your ergonomics by placing your monitor at eye level (so you don’t bend your head), while the keyboard is low enough to keep your arm and wrist level when your elbow is naturally bent at a right angle.

4. Lighten your touch

How tightly you hold your phone or pen, and the force you use when tapping computer keys, affect the stress on your medial nerve. Loosening your grip and using a lighter touch lowers your risk for carpal tunnel.

5. Wear a wrist brace at night

Support your efforts to keep your wrist straight while working by ensuring you don’t sleep with your wrist bent. For example, you may put your hand under your head, naturally bending the wrist. You can prevent this problem by wearing a wrist brace when sleeping.

If you have carpal tunnel symptoms, don’t wait to seek treatment. Call Florida Pain Medicine, or book an appointment online today.

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