There are minimal physical risks involved with a desk job. After all, sitting on a desk and a chair is safer than jobs that require lifting heavy weights or being outdoors in extreme weather conditions. However, prolonged sitting comes with a unique set of physical health risks, typically related musculoskeletal system. People with desk jobs most often experience lower back, hip, shoulder, and neck pain and several other repetitive stress injuries that are a result of damage to muscles, tendons, and nerves.
One of the most common repetitive stress injuries associated with desk jobs is carpal tunnel syndrome which typically results from repetitive motions such as typing on a computer or using the mouse. In what follows, we take a closer look at carpal tunnel syndrome and get an insight into some tips you can use to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome at work.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is one of the most frequently occurring repetitive stress injuries resulting from repetitive motion which leads to pressure on the nerve in your wrist. As the median nerve, the nerve that goes through the center of your wrist and into your hand from the carpal tunnel, is compressed, the condition is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
A Carpal tunnel is a narrow path within the wrist around the median nerve that protects the median nerve as it enters your hand. When there is inflammation on the median nerve, there isn't enough space for the nerve to pass from the carpal tunnel, which leads to various symptoms, including pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation.
While carpal tunnel syndrome may be a condition for some individuals who naturally have a narrow carpal tunnel, it is typically a repetitive stress injury that results from repetitive motion or activities that involve malpositioning of your hand and wrist for a prolonged period.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Since carpal tunnel is a passageway for the median nerve, when there is irritation or inflammation on the median nerve, there isn't enough space in the passageway for the nerve to pass through conveniently. As a result, there are certain undesirable symptoms that you may experience. Some of the common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include
- Pain in your hand or wrist, particularly in the first three fingers and the thumb,
- Numbness or tingling sensation in your wrist and hand,
- Weakness in your hands that may make it difficult to perform everyday fine-motor functions such as lifting low-weight objects or buttoning a shirt,
- Reduced or diminished grip strength,
- Numbness and pain in your forearm that may extend towards your upper arm and make it difficult to perform everyday tasks,
- Burning sensation in your wrist, hand, or arms.
Some individuals with the above-mentioned carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms may also experience swelling in their hand or wrist, which could be an indication of tendinitis. While both carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis may have similar symptoms, these are two different conditions that may be a result of different causes.
In the case of more severe symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, individuals with this condition may find it difficult to drive or perform everyday workplace tasks. In some cases, the pain and discomfort may also interfere with sleep, severely affecting the quality of life.
Is Your Job Putting You at Risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Certain types of jobs may put you at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Some of the work-related risks that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome involve
- Jobs that require forceful use of hands or wrists,
- A working environment where you are required to perform repetitive tasks,
- Working conditions where you have to maintain an awkward position for your hands as you perform your job-related tasks, and
- Jobs where employees are required to use their hands or wrists for a longer period.
Based on these risks, some of the jobs that put employees at the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome include assembly line jobs and administrative positions in the office that requires employees to work on the keyboard or use the mouse for a longer period.
Moreover, certain other jobs that may lead to a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome include cash handling positions at the band or hair stylists and musicians.
Tips to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at Work
Now that you have a clear understanding of what is carpal tunnel syndrome and how your job may be putting you at the risk of developing this condition let's take a closer look at some of the tips that can help you prevent carpal tunnel syndrome at work.
Improve Workplace Ergonomics
If you have a desk job that requires you to sit for prolonged hours in the same position, then you need to work on improving your workplace ergonomics. Invest in an ergonomic workstation that allows you to take care of your ergonomic work zones so you can maintain a good posture without straining your body.
Moreover, you also need to invest in an ergonomic office chair that allows you to maintain an appropriate body posture as you sit for long hours. With an ergonomic office chair, you can stay comfortable while keeping your entire body at ease, reducing the pressure on your spine, shoulders, and hands. You may find several ergonomic office chair brands, but Flexispot makes one of the most reliable brands that offer exceptionally supportive ergonomic office furniture and accessories that allow you to take good care of your body. Ergonomic Office Chair OC3B makes a great ergonomic office chair that can serve as an investment for your office. Learn more about ergonomic office chair OC3B here.
Add Stretching and Strengthening Exercises to Your Schedule
For office jobs that require employees to sit for prolonged hours, it is best to incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises for your hands every few hours. You don't have to get away from your desk to do these exercises; rather, you can simply do them while being at your work.
Maintain Your Wrist's Natural Position
As you work on your desk, ensure that you keep your wrist as straight as possible. Make sure you do not overextend your wrist or flex it beyond its natural range of motion, as repeatedly stretching your arm can put pressure on your median nerve and increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Avoid Using Extensive Force
If your work requires you to exert a lot of force with your hand, make sure you avoid exerting extensive force. You may gradually condition your hand muscles and tendons to work up gradually. As you make gradual adjustments to your hand, it will significantly help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome on the job, even if your job demands are strenuous for your hands.
Give Yourself a Break
As you spend hours at work in a sitting position performing repetitive tasks, don't forget to give yourself a short break once every few hours. You can take a 10 to 15-minute break every two hours so your body can recharge itself for the next working session.
Switch It Up
Apart from giving yourself a break, you can also try switching your working hands if you can conveniently do so. By switching your hands, you can give a break to your muscles which can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome at work.
Keep a Check on Your Posture
Do you slouch as you work? That's not a natural position for your body. However, it is common for people to focus on completing the task at hand to lose focus on their posture.
But let's not forget that poor or inappropriate posture can lead to several musculoskeletal conditions such as back and neck pain and even wrist problems. You can easily avoid these problems by keeping a check on your posture. As you maintain a proper posture, you can conveniently prevent the risk of several musculoskeletal conditions, including carpal tunnel syndrome.
With these tips and tricks, you can conveniently prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. However, if you experience constant pain in your hands and wrists or numbness or tingling sensation in your wrists, hands, or arms, make sure you speak to your healthcare provider. Your healthcare practitioner will assess and evaluate the damage to your muscles, tendons, and nerves and will then provide you with surgical or non-surgical treatment options, including NSAIDs, wrist splinter, and corticosteroids injection to reduce inflammation of the median nerve.