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How to Work With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

07 September 2023

Office jobs are a lot safer than jobs like say, construction, but that doesn't mean they're completely risk-free. Office jobs have their own set of dangers, one of which is carpal tunnel syndrome.

Knowing what CTS is and how to prevent it is something any office worker should know, but the real problem starts once you realize the problem already exists.

Of course, you can't just not work - money makes the world go round and all that - but your health is just as important, and you can't put it at risk by pushing forward even when your body is crying for help.

Most people don't actually manage to do it right, but fortunately, there are ways to manage your work and the problem together.

Let's look at how to work with carpal tunnel syndrome.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

To understand how to protect yourself from the problem, you need to understand how it happens in the first place.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in your wrist towards the palm side of your hand, surrounded by bones and ligaments. From this passage, the median nerve passes from your arm into your hand. Because this tunnel is very narrow, repetitive movement can cause inflammation in the ligaments and tendons and make the tunnel narrower than it is already.

As a result, the median nerve gets compressed and causes pain, tingling and numbness to spread to your hand and arm.



Managing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome With Work

So, we know how CTS happens, but if you've already identified that you have CTS, how are you supposed to get anything done? It's not only painful, but you may find that having to work when you're in pain and the pain is getting worse also affects your mental health and stress levels.

But the good news is that most people do manage their symptoms, and they do so alongside their work.

Let's look at how to work when you have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Know The Risks

To prevent the problem from getting worse, you have to understand what the risks are so that you don't end up hurting yourself even more.

For example, heavy lifting can put extra pressure on your wrist and make it hurt, and may even cause further damage within. If your job mostly involves working at a computer, your wrist will be bent for a majority of your day, which can get painful.

Knowing your risks helps you take precautions and ask for help when necessary. We can't always put everything aside and wait for recovery, but we can minimize the load we put on our body as much as possible if we understand what the risk factors are.

Rest

Yes, you can't just leave work, but you do need to get adequate rest if you want to recover. This means that you may have to take breaks more frequently and at specific times rather than waiting for when your wrist starts hurting.

If you push yourself too hard, you'd just be aggravating your injury even more. Not only will this make your recovery time longer, it could also lead to a worse scenario where your injury puts you out of commission for a while. That's a lot worse than taking regular breaks during the day.

Do all your necessary tasks, but space them out as much as you can, so you don't put too much pressure on your wrist at once. If there are any tasks you can delegate to someone else, or that you can put away for the future, do so.



Put Less Force

Because carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure, you have to minimize this as much as possible. Pressure could be external - such as bending your wrist, lifting something heavy, etc. - but it could also be because of how much force you have in your grip.

Many people don't realize how much pressure they are putting into their grip until they are told, so be mindful of this. You don't need to put in extra force to hold your pen or your phone. Be gentler to your wrist to keep it safe.

Use Support Tools

There are plenty of support items available that can help you get your work done without needing to put pressure on your wrist. For example, instead of typing, you could use voice-to-text applications which are available on pretty much every device nowadays.

Instead of writing, you could use color-coded tabs to help you remember things until you get well enough to be able to write them down.

There are plenty of tools available to make your work easier for you, and you should be using them if your wrist health is already compromised.

Regular Exercises

Physiotherapy can help you fix a lot of problems in the body, and carpal tunnel syndrome is one of them. Of course, this will depend on the severity of the problem, but in many cases, doing regular exercises can bring about some relief.

Though exercise doesn't help fix the core problem - that is, the narrowing of the carpal tunnel and compression of the median nerve - it does help reduce the symptoms and the pain.



Avoid Repetitive Activities

Carpal tunnel syndrome falls into a branch of health problems called repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) which - as the name suggests - come from repetitive activities which cause stress.

While there are other, more serious causes for CTS, a majority of cases come from repetitive stress and mechanical overuse - that is, by doing the same thing over and over again.

For office work, this is almost always computer use.

If you don't want to aggravate your condition further, not only should you be taking breaks more often (which we talked about earlier) but you should also be constantly switching between tasks. Don't spend too much time doing the same kind of work, because the repetition can also put pressure on your wrist and make the condition worse.

Instead, divide your work into chunks based on what tools you'd be using, and then shuffle them around so that you are constantly switching between the kind of task you're doing.

This can be a bit aggravating because it ruins the flow of your work, but it's a lot more important to make sure that your health doesn't get worse just because you wanted to finish all your tasks in one go.

Keep Your Hands Warm

Keeping your hands warm won't fix the problem, but it does help prevent stiffness in your hands. If your hands are stiff and uncomfortable, the likelihood of your wrist being pressured beyond its comfort level is higher.

Keep a Brace On

When you're not working, always keep a wrist brace on so that your wrist remains supported. While you can't do anything about the hours you have to work, you can do something about the time you're not working.

When you're watching TV or doing something that doesn't require using your hands, wear a brace so that your wrist doesn't get bent unnecessarily.



Fix Your Posture

You'd be surprised, but posture plays a major role in the development and correction of carpal tunnel syndrome. When your posture isn't correct, your shoulders can roll forward, and weaken the muscles in your neck and back.

When working at your desk, you should also keep your hands in the right position. Many people end up keeping their wrist at an awkward angle when they're working, which can, again, put pressure on your wrist.

Your wrist should be in a neutral position at all times, with your arms pressed to your side and your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle. Ideally, your chair should have armrests to provide support.

At the same time, your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your knees should be in line with or just below your hips. Your feet should be flat on the floor.

While office furniture is made for the general population, it really only manages to serve these requirements for people of average height, and sometimes, not even them. If you are taller or shorter than average, it'd be way harder for you to find furniture that works for you.

FlexiSpot's Comhar Standing Desk provides a great solution to the problem. Not only is it a height adjustable desk, allowing you to move it up and down to whichever position works best, but it's also very easy to use and great for the workplace.

You don't have to worry about disturbing others, or doing any heavy lifting yourself, because the desk has a very quiet motor that can help you adjust the table to your desired height without making much noise.

It also has height presets so you don't have to fiddle around with the correct height every time - all you have to do is input the height that suits you by figuring it out once - the next time you need to adjust the desk, you can do so with the touch of a button.

Carpal tunnel syndrome affects millions of people every year, but fortunately, there are ways to manage the problem without having to abandon your workplace responsibilities.