Carpal tunnel syndrome is an occupational hazard for anyone whose job involves making repetitive movements with the hands and/or fingers. In this age of computers, that means virtually anyone who works in an office, as well as assembly line workers, bookkeepers, cashiers, jackhammer operators, musicians, and many others.
Spending a great deal of time engaging in a hobby such as knitting and needlework can also cause problems. No matter what your occupation, the following measures are recommended to help you reduce the risk of developing this painful and disabling condition:
- Use your whole hand and all of your fingers when you grip an object.
- Whenever possible, use a tool instead of flexing your wrists forcibly.
- Make sure your posture is correct. For keyboard tasks, sit straight in your chair with your body tilted slightly back. Raise or lower your chair so that your knees are bent at a right angle and your feet are flat on the floor. Your wrists and hands should be straight and your forearms parallel to the floor. Keep your wrists and hands consistently in a straight line.
- Keep your elbows bent. This lessens the load close to your body and reduce the amount of force required to do your job. Give yourself elbow room to allow you to use as much of your arm as you can while keeping your wrists straight. Use your whole arm while performing tasks in order to minimize the stress on your elbow.
- Adjust your computer screen so that it is about two feet away from you and just below your line of sight.
- Use arm rests that attach to the chair to keep your wrists from flexing too much.
- If the relative positions of your desk, chair, and keyboard do not allow you to keep your wrists straight while keyboarding, the use of "wrist rest" pad in front of the keyboard is highly recommended to alleviate pressure on the carpal tunnel.
- Slow your rhythm while varying wrist and hand movements.
- Take a break from handwork for a few minutes every hour.
- Shake out your hands periodically throughout the day.
- Perform simple stretching exercises before your daily tasks to improve overall circulation and aid in warming up the muscles.
The American Physical Therapy Association recommends these exercises:
- Resting one forearm on a table, grasp the fingertips of that hand and pull back gently. Hold this position for five seconds, then repeat the exercise with the other hand.
- Press the palms flat on a table, as if doing a push-up. Lean forward to stretch the forearm muscles and the wrists.
Do strengthening exercises. Place a rubber band around the fingers to provide resistance, and then open and close the fingers. Three times a day, do a set of ten repetitions with each hand.