Repetitive movements of the mouse, extended periods at the keyboard and a poorly designed workspace all take their toll on your body. One of the many disorders it can cause over time is carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on the nerve that runs the length of your arm, through your wrist and into your hand. This is called the median nerve.
The disorder causes pain, numbness of the hand and semi-paralysis of the fingers. It can be debilitating.
Certain illnesses, obesity and congenital narrowing of the nerve sheath, known as the carpal tunnel, are all factors that can contribute to the condition. In most cases, however, bad posture and poorly designed tools, equipment and furniture are at the heart of the problem.
Create a comfortable work space
The first step to avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome is to create a comfortable work space.
If your office chair isn’t adjusted to the right height and lean for your body shape, your posture will be compromised and pressure will build on the muscles, nerves and tendons in your back, arms and legs.
Also, if your arms aren’t level with your desk, your wrists will be bent upwards or downwards, creating a pinching or narrowing effect on the carpal tunnel.
Get supportive equipment
These days, you can purchase all sorts of high-tech tools and equipment that are designed to keep your hands, wrists and fingers in the best possible positions. V-shaped or ergonomic keyboards are great if you spend hours typing.
Keypads with raised areas support the wrist, and the vertical mouse is a game changer. It’s the perfect foil for wrist pain, as it supports the hand in a handshake grip. Buttons naturally fit under the fingertips, and a power driver reduces the need for repetitive arm movements.
If you’re really battling with pain, try working with a wrist splint. This is a medical brace that stabilises your wrist, thereby reducing the pressure on the median nerve.
Exercise the wrists
You can keep your wrists strong and agile by exercising them regularly. Yoga and Pilates are highly recommended for those who spend hours in one position at their desks.
There are also simple wrist exercises you can do several times a day. Shaking your hands from side to side is one such activity. Stretching your arms out in front of you, collapsing your wrists, and pushing them gently towards your body are others.
The “Spider” is a useful exercise that stretches your fingers and thumbs. Simply join all your digits together at the tips, and push inwards until the top of your palms meet. Repeat at least ten times for the best results.
Applying ice, heat and gels to the wrists reduces inflammation and pain. Number 4 and 8 tissue salts are also commonly recommended for helping with swelling and aches, respectively.
At pharmacies, you’ll find heating pads, ice packs, rubs and gels offering muscular relief, as well as a range of low-cost natural substitutes for pain killers and anti-inflammatories.
Get a decent office chair
Last but not least, get a comfortable, properly designed office chair, and adjust it to the correct height to prevent pressure on your wrists. Failing that or as an interim measure, do whatever you need to do (even if it involves copies of the local phone directory!) to get your chair and desk to the correct relative heights. This is a vital step for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.