How to Avoid Carpal Tunnel in an Office Job

Nothing can slow you down at the computer faster than carpal tunnel syndrome. This common problem plagues 4-10 million Americans, causing pain, numbness, and burning or tingling in the arm, wrist, hand, or fingers. 

While a combination of factors are often to blame for carpal tunnel, repetitive motions can increase your chances of developing the condition. Without treatment, carpal tunnel can grow progressively worse and lead to permanent nerve damage.

Recognize your risks

Carpal tunnel develops when the channel in your wrist narrows. This narrowing constricts your median nerve and flexor tendons where they pass through your wrist, triggering carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. 

Certain factors can increase your risk of carpal tunnel, including:

Genetics and obesity can also increase your chances of developing carpal tunnel as well as participating in repetitive movements with a lot of wrist flexing, like typing.

Just because you have an office job doesn’t mean it’s only a matter of time before carpal tunnel strikes you though. At Mehling Orthopedics, our experienced team recommends using these five preventive strategies to avoid getting carpal tunnel on the job.

1. Take breaks

You may not be able to give up your day job to avoid carpal tunnel. But taking frequent breaks can do wonders. In an ideal world, you should take little breaks every 10-15 minutes or one 10-minute break each hour. Need help remembering? Set alarms to remind you to change positions and take breaks regularly.

2. Remember to stretch -- a lot

Several times throughout your workday, especially during your breaks, do some simple stretches. We recommend making fists, the shake, and long arm stretch.

Making fists

First, form a tight fist with your hands. Then release your fingers -- spreading them wide -- and stretching as far as you can. Repeat this exercise 5-10 times.

The shake

Imagine you just washed your hands. Now, shake them to dry them off. That’s it! Do this exercise for a minute every few hours to keep muscles and nerves in your wrists and hands from growing cramped throughout the day.

Long arm stretch

For a deep stretch, hold one arm out in front of you. Keep your elbow straight, and wrist and fingers extended, palm facing the ground. With your fingers spread, use your other hand to press them downward. Hold for approximately 20 seconds, and enjoy the stretch through your fingers and wrist before switching sides. Repeat several times on each side once an hour.

3. Relax 

It’s easy to get carried away when you’re working, which can cause you to pound your keyboard or grip your office supplies tighter than necessary. Instead, try to use a softer touch and keep your hands as relaxed as possible. It’s also important to keep your hands and wrists in a neutral position as often as possible, which reduces pressure on your median nerve.

4. Change things up

Since repetitive motion can cause carpal tunnel, it’s important to avoid using the same movements over and over again. While it may not be feasible to work fewer hours or skip turning in your latest assignment, mixing up how you do things can avoid repetitive stress. One simple approach involves using your nondominant hand from time to time. It may feel awkward to start, but it gets easier over time, while reducing repetitive strain at the same time.

5. Don’t forget your posture

When you spend hours a day at a computer, it’s easy to forget the importance of good posture. The moment your shoulders roll forward, you set off a chain reaction of problems that can impact your neck and shoulder muscles, nerves in your neck, all the way into your arms, wrists, and hands. 

To avoid putting strain on your body, practice good ergonomics with your work centered in front of you, and keep your elbows close and hands and wrists in line with your forearms. For more information on proper workplace ergonomics, we recommend getting expert advice on tools and workstation set up to keep you safe and productive in the workplace.

Worried about carpal tunnel or trying to find relief from your symptoms? We can help. Call one of our convenient locations in Hackensack, New Jersey, or West Islip, New York.

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