It’s hard to imagine getting through the workday without using your wrists or hands. But many everyday work-related tasks stress these body parts, and over time, this repetitive stress can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
At Carl N. Williams, Jr. M.D. Hand and Plastic Surgery in Las Vegas, Nevada, we offer effective solutions that address the pain and weakness CTS causes, including hand surgery using surgical techniques designed to restore function while minimizing scarring.
Our team also knows that the best treatment for CTS is preventing the condition from developing in the first place. In this post, you can learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome and how to prevent it by making a few changes at work.
Understanding carpal tunnel syndrome
When your median nerve — the nerve that carries sensation to your thumb and fingers (except your pinkie) — gets compressed, you can develop carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition gets its name because the median nerve passes through your wrist in a small opening made of ligaments and bones, called the carpal tunnel.
This tunnel compresses when your wrist swells, putting pressure on the nerve. This can cause tingling, numbness, and weakness in the affected hand. Symptoms of CTS usually begin gradually and become more severe over time.
The condition often develops if you have a job that involves repetitive wrist movement, such as typing, assembly work, jewelry making, knitting, using controls, or construction work.
You can get carpal tunnel syndrome at any age, but it’s most commonly diagnosed in middle adulthood (ages 40-60). Women are three times more likely than men to develop CTS, and certain health conditions — like arthritis, diabetes, high BMI, and hypertension — increase your risk.
If you’re experiencing wrist pain, Dr. Williams evaluates your symptoms and offers recommendations for relief.
Tips for preventing CTS at work
Although CTS usually worsens over time, you may be able to avoid surgery when it’s diagnosed and treated early. And by making simple changes at work, it’s possible to manage or even reverse the condition.
For the best chance at preventing carpal tunnel syndrome or managing the painful symptoms associated with your condition, here are our top tips:
1. Make adjustments to your work area
One of the best things you can do to prevent CTS at work is improving your posture at work. Whether you sit or stand for your job, you can reduce strain on your wrists with a few simple changes, including using an ergonomically correct workstation.
For example, at a desk job, be sure to position your wrists above your hands as you type. And check that you’re keeping your elbows close to your sides to reduce pressure on the wrists when you do computer work.
2. Use a light touch
It’s easy to use more force than needed to carry out your everyday tasks. Instead of gripping tools tightly, try using a lighter touch. It helps to stay mindful of how much pressure you use throughout the day. If you notice you’re holding something tightly or striking computer keyboard keys harder than necessary, try to relax.
3. Take frequent breaks
If your job requires repetitive wrist movements or lots of computer work, it’s important to give your wrists a rest by taking frequent breaks. Change up which hand you use for different tasks, and be sure to stretch your wrists and hands often.
5. Keep your hands and wrists warm
Cooler temperatures increase wrist stiffness, so try to keep your workspace warm. In walk-in fridges or freezers or air-conditioned offices, you can wear wrist warmers or fingerless gloves that allow you to type.
6. Make changes away from work, too
Making changes outside the office can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome before it starts. This is because different health factors elevate your risk of getting CTS, including:
- Having a condition that affects your nerves, such as Type 2 diabetes
- Having a condition that increases fluid retention, such as hypertension
- Being overweight or obese
By eating right and exercising, you lower your risk for developing a condition that contributes to swelling and nerve damage.
Think about how you sleep, too. Avoid curling your hands underneath you or sleeping in positions that bend or twist your wrists. You can try wearing braces to hold your wrists in a neutral position while you sleep.
Consider adding yoga to your routine. Yoga builds strength and flexibility in your shoulders, neck, arms, and wrists, which can help reduce your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. If you already have CTS, check out these yoga positions to help.
For help with carpal tunnel syndrome pain, schedule a consultation at Carl N. Williams, Jr. M.D. Hand and Plastic Surgery today. Call our Las Vegas office, or request an appointment online.