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How to Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome with a Desk Job?

02 June 2021

A common misconception about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is that it is associated with tasks that require heavy hand use. For instance, heavy typing, rapid computer use, and other heavy office-related tasks. 

However, the truth is that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can affect any person who performs repetitive movements with their hands. More than 500,000 people undergo Carpal Tunnel surgery every year, which is why it is one of the most common hand operations conducted. 

Even though there isn't a designated treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, there are a few methods that you can apply to reduce the pressure you put on your wrists and hands while working at a desk job. 

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

There are many health issues associated with physical inactivity at work; however, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a product of rapid hand movements, while the rest of the body remains fairly inactive. 

Are Carpal Tunnel is made up of bones, tendons, and ligaments. It is located on the palm side of your wrist. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the nerve that runs through your Carpal Tunnel is squeezed or put under excessive pressure by the swollen tendons in your wrist. 

These swollen tendons surface with years of repetitive hand movements and arthritis conditions. If your tendons begin to swell, you will probably begin to feel the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The most common symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are:

  • Tingling in the palm 
  • Numbness 
  • Current or shock-like feeling in the fingers 
  • Pain in the arm and shoulders 
  • Difficulty in doing heavy tasks 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be treated early if you recognize the symptoms. This way, you may not need surgery as topical treatment methods would suffice. Symptoms generally occur slowly and mostly start in the thumb area. 

Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Hereditary? 

Some people are likely to get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome more than others, and this is something that can depend on a variety of factors. Here is who is at risk:

  •  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is not necessarily hereditary; however, a certain biological trait can cause the Carpal Tunnel in your palm to be smaller. 
  •  Other than this, Carpal Tunnel occurs more in women compared to men. The reason behind this is that women have narrower wrists. It is easy to put pressure on the median nerve if you have a narrow wrist, regardless of gender. 
  •  Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also increase Carpal Tunnel Syndrome risk. 
  •  In terms of age, older people experience Carpal Tunnel Syndrome more than younger people. This is true mainly due to your body's depreciation rather than anything else. 
  •  Heavy laborers, musicians, and people with desk jobs at offices are at high risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. 
  •  Suppose you have a risk of diabetes, arthritis, or hypothyroidism. In that case, these illnesses can also pave the way for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
  •  Lastly, if you had any past hand injuries, they could also play a role in developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in the future. 

Have a desk job? Here’s how to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Small changes to your workplace and daily routine can easily help you prevent this painful hand condition. You have to remember that seeking prevention at an early stage is better than getting Carpal Tunnel surgery. This particular hand condition can be exceedingly painful and interfere in your personal life more than you think. Not only can it make your desk job miserable, but it can also negatively impact your driving, sleeping, and even eating. 

Here are a few preventative methods through which you can avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome if you have a desk job:

Manage Your Health 

If you are a person with diabetes or weight issues, it is very crucial for you to manage your health risks as they can lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Maintain a healthy lifestyle in terms of your diet and exercise to keep your diabetes and weight gain at bay. Smoking can also interfere with your blood flow and put you at a higher risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Keep Your Wrist Warm

Ensure that you keep your hands warm in cold weather as stiffness can weekend your wrists. Consider investing in fingerless gloves if your workplace has a lower temperature than usual. 

Loosen Your Grip

Consciously try to loosen your grip on things such as pens and pencils. Whenever you write, try to write smoothly but in a gentle manner rather than scribble with a firm grip. Don't hit your keyboard too hard for the sake of typing fast. It may get your job done quicker, but it is also pushing you towards Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. 

Positioning Matters 

It is vital to learn how to adjust your workstation, especially if you feel that you are at risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. There are times when our workstation is not but positioned ideally for our body size or type. Your workstation needs to be as low as possible, but at the same time should not be touching your legs. Your forearms should be parallel to the floor. Ideally, your desk needs to be as high as your waist. Moreover, while typing, ensure that your weight falls on your elbows instead of your hands.

Invest in Adjustable Desks 

Adjustable desks can be a lifesaver, especially if you experience any sort of physical body discomfort during work. There are many reasons you need a standing desk in your office, with the topmost being its adjustment capacity. 

The electrical control systems of the Seiffen Laminated Standing Desk by Flexispot is an incredibly useful feature that can allow your desk to match your desired height. If your desk is the source of your hand discomfort, then an adjustable standing desk is the product you need. 

Align Your Workstation

If you want to prevent carpal tunnel, your forearms and wrists need to be in alignment. If you are using a computer, ensure that you hold your mouse with a neutral grip rather than a strong one. Curling your hand upwards or downwards while holding a mouse can be risky. Your keyboard should also be in alignment with your wrist and your forearms; avoid tilted keyboards while typing.

Arranging your workstation based on ergonomic tips and techniques can help you reduce the risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It is important for you to evaluate your workspace and make these little changes for better wrist health. 

Exercises and Relaxation Techniques 

Relaxation techniques and mini exercises can be beneficial for your wrists and stop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from developing. You may ask what can you do to exercise at work if you are always chained to your desk? 

Firstly, you need to make sure that your repetitive hand movements are not being isolated. If there is no variation in your hand movement, the tendons are more likely to swell.

Stretch your arms, and rest regularly by flexing them back and forth. You can also move them in circular motions and slightly give them a shake. Hold your fingers wide till they feel stretched out, and slowly relax them back in. Repeating this step several times can give you a relaxing sensation in your hands. These exercises can improve blood flow and reduce overall inflammation in your palm or wrist area.

Taking Breaks 

Many times, you might not be able to take a break away from your desk if you are deeply involved in your work. Prevent this by setting a timer on your phone so that you can take a short break after every hour or so. Use this break to walk around and exercise your wrists so that you do not end up continuously exerting pressure on it.

Try alternating your work to manage the stress on your hands and wrists. If a particular activity is heavy on the wrist, then time it in a way through which you can alternate it out for something that doesn’t require physical and movements. This may affect your pace at work, but it can help you prevent a painful hand condition. 

What should you do if you already have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

If you are already experiencing Carpal Tunnel symptoms or having problems with an existing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome condition, here are a few things that can help you reduce your pain:

  • Cold packs and compresses 
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin 
  • Purchase a wrist splint and wear it while you sleep to protect your hand from curling 
  • Take a break from work; if a break is not possible, try using dictation software instead of writing or typing

If you’ve already applied these methods and aren’t working out for you, do not hesitate to contact a health professional. Depending on your condition, you may need occupational therapy, physiotherapy, or even cortisone injections. You will only be prescribed Carpal Tunnel surgery if you are experiencing severe symptoms.