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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the Workplace

18 December 2022

If your job requires you to repeatedly move your arms and hands in the same pattern, you might be at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. This is especially true for individuals with desk jobs who are required to use the keyboard frequently. Thousands of employees suffer from this painful illness, which causes a hindrance in their productivity and does not allow them to work as efficiently as they could.

Carpal tunnel syndrome causes pain, numbness, and a tingling sensation in the wrist and hands, and arms. However, if the symptoms are not treated or managed correctly, the condition can worsen over time. This is why it is essential for individuals to know about the risks, causes, and preventative tips for this painful condition. In this guide, we will discuss them all.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

This relatively common condition affects employees and their hands, arms, and wrists, typically through forceful and repeated movements. It commonly occurs when individuals engage in activities like typing on a keyboard or using handheld power tools. The numbness, pain, and tingling sensations arise because the wrist's median nerve is continually compressed.

The median nerve is compressed through the muscles and tendons in the wrist that become swollen because of the repeated movements. These swollen muscles and tendons put excessive pressure on this nerve located in the 'carpal tunnel' of the wrist, which is like a tube located in the wrist. This is where the condition gets its name from.

As a result, there would be inflammation in one's carpal tunnel that can result in pain radiating up to the arm, weakness in the hand's pinching muscles, and tingling and numbing sensations in the wrist and hands. Such discomfort leads to an inability to carry out daily tasks like driving, writing, and other tasks related to the job. In fact, it may not even let you enjoy a good night's sleep.



What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

CTS is most often caused by specific tasks or jobs that involve repeated and forceful movements. Hence, specific jobs may enhance the risk of an individual developing CTS. For example, writers and data entry workers must continually type on their keyboards, assembly line workers, cashiers, hair stylists, meat-cutters, cleaners, construction workers, and those who have to use vibrating and power tools.

Individuals who carry out any tasks that include the following are at risk of developing CTS:

Hands in an awkward position while working

Carrying out repetitive hand motions

Holding objects with a firm grip for a prolonged time

Gripping or holding onto things that are vibrating vigorously

Placing pressure and stress on the palms of the hands

Symptoms of CTS

Knowing about the symptoms and signs of CTS is essential to catch it during its early and treatable stages. It typically starts with a few symptoms that gradually develop to worsen over time. The early signs and symptoms of this syndrome are:

Numbness in the middle, index, and the ring fingers, as well as a thumb that comes and goes

Sensations in the fingers that are similar to small shock waves

Sensations that travel up your wrist and arm when you are driving or carrying out other daily activities

Pain that wakes you up at night

The feeling that your hand is sleeping and you might need to shake it to get rid of it

Over time, the condition might begin to worsen. In such a case, you might experience the following symptoms

Increased pain that becomes a constant and travels up to your arm, neck, and shoulders

Weakness in the fingers and particularly in the thumb

Numbness in the hand that leads you to drop objects frequently

The feeling of your muscles being continually pinched

How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This condition is preventable by reducing the stress on your hands and wrists at the workplace. You can minimize your risk of this syndrome by following a few preventative measures while at work. These include the following:



Go Ergonomic

If you have a desk job, you should consider getting ergonomic tools and furniture to work in a comfortable and neutral position. This is why ergonomic office chairs and standing desks have become increasingly popular in workplaces. You should also opt for these tools if you consistently work in a position that compresses the nerve in your carpal tunnel.

Get an ergonomic office chair from FlexiSpot that comes with a footrest and headrest to help you stay comfortable while you work. Moreover, the armrests allow you to keep your arms aligned while working and can be shifted upwards and downwards, which reduces pressure on your wrists and median nerve.

Know Your Risks

Some individuals are at more risk of developing this syndrome that should take extra precautions. For example, those with nerve-damaging conditions like diabetes are overweight or have various medical conditions like menopause, kidney disease, and thyroid disorders. Additionally, people who take specific drugs for cancers may also be at risk.

These conditions may not cause CTA directly, but they can increase your risk of damaging nerves.



Take Short and Frequent Breaks between Work

When using the muscles in your hands and wrists consistently, it is essential to take breaks in between. Get up from your workstation and walk around and stretch your muscles. You can also massage your hands and wrists lightly to increase blood circulation. Additionally, you should also shake your arms.

All of this will help relieve your body of its static position, encourage flexibility, and reduce stiffness and swelling. However, it is easy to get engrossed in work and forget to take these breaks. This is why you should instead set a timer on your phone to remind you to take breaks once every hour or so.

Rest

If you have already started experiencing the early signs and symptoms of CTS, it is essential for you to stop and rest. You need to give your body a break immediately, so the symptoms don't aggravate and worsen. Only return to work or these activities only when you are ready. Ideally, you should rest for a couple of weeks to give your muscles and tissue time to heal.



Pay Attention to Your Alignment and Posture

Another factor contributing to this syndrome development is your posture. When typing on a keyboard, you should pay special attention to your posture since a poor one can put pressure on the median nerve.

When working and sitting on your desk, ensure that your back is straight and that your wrists and arms are aligned with the keyboard. They should all be kept in the same plane and height.

Perform Regular Exercises

You should perform specific exercises to keep your wrists and muscles toned. This is especially needed if you have been experiencing early signs of this syndrome since they provide ease from inflammation. You should discuss with a physician to come up with a suitable exercise plan.

Perform these exercises, stretch your hands, and shake your wrists vigorously to get the blood flowing. Even opening your hands wide for a few seconds and then relaxing them is helpful.



Position Your Workstation in the Center

If you have a desk job, you must ensure that your workstation is positioned right in the center. It should also be the same height as you, but not too low to rest on your legs. While working, your forearms should be parallel to the floor. If you have a standing desk, this should be ideally positioned at the same height as your waist.

Relax Your Grip

Avoid using too much force while carrying out repetitive motions that may increase your risk of CTS. For example, if you are typing on a keyboard or working at a cash register, you must hit the keys lightly. Similarly, if you are writing with a pen, make sure you are holding a big pen with a good grip so you are not holding it too hard.



Ensure Your Hands Stay Warm

Your hands might become susceptible to stiffness, pain, and this syndrome if you work in an area with cold conditions. Hence, your workplace should be warm. If you cannot control the temperature, try wearing gloves to keep your hands warm.

Final Words

If you notice any early signs of CTS developing, you should not ignore them. Following the aforementioned tips will help you prevent the condition from aggravating and stop the condition's development in the first place.

This is why you should consider getting the ergonomic office chair from FlexiSpot because it will prove to be a worthwhile investment. It is designed to keep your posture and forearms aligned so that you don't put too much force on the nerve in your wrist. Whether you are working from home or in the office, it will help you to work comfortably and not feel tired as often.