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Wrist Care: Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you spend a lot of time doing activities that involve forceful or repetitive hand or wrist movement or use of vibrating equipment, you have an increased risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. These activities can include driving, working with small instruments, knitting, or using a sander. You can reduce your risk—and any hand pain or weakness you may already have—by taking a few simple steps.
- Many health conditions and diseases make you more likely to get carpal tunnel symptoms. But if you exercise, stay at a healthy weight, control other health conditions such as arthritis and diabetes, and avoid smoking, you can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Arranging your activity and work space using ergonomic guidelines can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Office ergonomics focuses on how a workstation is set up, including the placement of your desk, computer monitor, paperwork, chair, and associated tools, such as a computer keyboard and mouse. The same ideas can help you arrange your position for other daily activities.
- Proper body mechanics are key to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Evaluate your daily routine for activities that increase your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Take frequent breaks from activities to rest, stretch, change positions, or alternate with another activity.
How can you prevent carpal tunnel syndrome?
Don't wait till you have symptoms to take preventive measures. Increase your awareness of how you use your hands and equipment throughout the day, and make some changes. Many different kinds of activity can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
Use an ergonomically correct workstation setup and posture. You can adjust your working environment and how you use it. You can also use a similar setup for other work areas, such as where you do your hobbies or work with hand tools.
When setting up your work area:
- Center your work in front of you, as low as possible without touching your legs (your forearms are parallel to the floor or slightly lowered). If you work while standing, have your work surface at about waist height.
- Keep your hands and wrists in line with your forearms. For example, if you work at a keyboard, tilt it to help keep this alignment. Use proper hand and wrist position for manual tasks.
- Hold your elbows close to your sides.
- Avoid leaning on the heel of your hand or your wrist.
- Take little breaks every 10 to 15 minutes. Use a reminder alarm if needed.
- Do stretching exercises every 20 to 60 minutes.
Consider trying a different tool or grip. Many people benefit from using a split, V-shaped keyboard. If possible, try one for at least a week. One style may work well for you while another doesn't. When using other equipment, try changing the way you hold the tool. You may also be able to switch hands now and then when using some tools.
Consider trying wrist splints. If you have carpal tunnel symptoms and have trouble training your wrists to stay straight, try wearing wrist splints for temporary relief. These splints are not meant to be worn over a long period of time. But wearing them whenever you are sleeping can help you manage carpal tunnel syndrome over the long term.