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Working With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Tips for Maximum Comfort

16 January 2023

Office work is not often associated with danger. It's not like heavy lifting and you don't have to type away at your computer while hanging from dangerous heights. That said, office workers are prone to a specific injury that others may not: carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome usually develops due to repetitive motions - such as typing. If your wrist is causing you pain and hindering your ability to get any other work done, you're definitely not alone. In the USA, about 6% of adults are affected by carpal tunnel syndrome.

As office work becomes more and more common, so does the condition!

There are, of course, different levels of severity to the condition, as with anything else. In more severe cases, you may need surgery and you may be incapable of using your hand otherwise.

With milder cases though, you can make a difference through lifestyle changes and meds. For most of us, skipping work due to healthcare problems is not really an option. Thankfully, most of us don't have severe carpal tunnel syndrome, and the problem itself is quite noticeable before it becomes severe.

Let's look at the symptoms of CTS and how you can provide relief and heal while you are still working.



Signs You May Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The biggest sign that you may have carpal tunnel syndrome is if your wrist starts hurting. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in your wrist where the median nerve enters your hand. If you move your hand in a repetitive motion every day for a long stretch of time, this nerve can get inflamed.

When this happens, you notice the following:

Tingling and numbness, particularly in the thumb and first three fingers. This tingling may also spread up the rest of your arm towards your shoulder. This may also make it hard for you to pick up or carry any objects.

Weakness in your hands, making it hard for you to do simple things like pick up a pen or do your buttons.

Weak grip in your hand.

A burning sensation in your hand, arm, or wrist.

All of these can make it difficult to carry out daily tasks. If you notice any of these, see a doctor as soon as possible! Carpal tunnel syndrome is easily detected and can heal, but if you let it escalate, the problem can become much more difficult to address.

Dealing With Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

So, you've identified that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. You can't exactly take a few days off work because of it, especially since it doesn't heal very fast if you're not going for surgery. But you also need to provide your wrist with rest to make it heal at all! What do you do?

Here are some tips on how to work with CTS.



Wrist Position

When you're working, be extremely cautious of your wrist position. Your wrist should be in a neutral position, and your arms should be resting on something.

Many people don't keep their arms in the right position while working. This can cause your wrist to bend up or down, and this puts pressure on the nerve. If you keep working like this, you can end up with carpal tunnel syndrome!

Always be aware of how your wrist is positioned, and if you notice that it's strained, stop working. Take a bit of time to rest, and then continue working with your wrist in the correct position.

Frequent Stretches

Even if your wrists are held in the right position consistently, don't skip out on breaks. Stop every hour to stretch your hands and fingers. There are plenty of exercises that help with preventing and healing CTS that you can try out.



Wearing Splints

Keeping your wrists straight can help with making sure you don't accidentally put pressure on your nerves. This is difficult to do on your own, so wearing a splint may help. Symptoms for CTS are usually most apparent at night, and can also end up disturbing sleep. Putting a splint on during the evening can help with avoiding pain before it shows up.

You can also wear the splint during the day, but don't wear it while working. If you force your wrist to bend when it's being forcibly held straight, you will only injure yourself further.

Flex Less

Many people tend to stress their arms, wrists, and fingers when working. If you think you're holding your pen a little too lightly when you could be writing with a lighter grip, loosen up! Flexing too hard may be putting pressure on your wrists and make the pain worse.



Stay Warm

If you're feeling the pain, there's a high likelihood that your hands are feeling stiff and tense. You can relieve the muscles in your arms by wearing a hand warmer, fingerless gloves or simply holding them over the stove while you do mundane tasks like cooking. Stretch them out a bit while they're warm to provide some extra relief.

Medicines

Of course, sometimes the pain can simply get too unbearable and none of the above will work. In such cases, painkillers are your friend! OTC painkillers are easy to get your hands on and can provide some instant relief. Of course, these are short-term and will only get rid of enough pain to make you not want to throw your arm away, but are still better than nothing.

(A tip: taking painkillers with caffeine makes the effects of the medicine set in faster!)

Some painkillers also come with anti-inflammatory properties and can help with that as well. Topical menthol and balms may also be helpful with reducing pain, though you'll have to make sure you're applying them properly in the right amounts.



Watch Your Posture

Here's the catch: no matter which of the above tips you follow, you can't actually get rid of the problem itself until you fix your posture.

A very large number of cases of CTS can be attributed to bad posture. Watching your wrist and hands can be somewhat natural and your eyes do get drawn to it - especially if you are already in pain. But watching how you carry the rest of your body can be difficult! Poor posture can make your wrist suffer, but can also make your shoulder and neck muscles stiff which travels down and makes wrist problems even worse.

The biggest reason for bad posture is bad ergonomics. The best way to prevent problems like CTS is to consider the ergonomics of your workstation and fix them before any such issues even arise.

You spend a very large part of the day at your desk, so it's vital that you pay attention to it. Your chair needs to be at the right height and angled the right way for you to use your keyboard without stressing your wrists.

Your hands should be held straight when typing rather than holding your wrists above the keys. Your elbows should be resting on something, and angled at a 90-degree angle.

At the same time, your feet need to be resting flat on a surface, otherwise, you'll bust your knees. Your back needs to be straight and your shoulders and neck should have support because the tension and strain from these two places specifically can travel down your arm and hurt your wrist.

The best way to deal with this is to get yourself an ergonomic chair.

The Flexispot Office Mesh Chair is a good example. It has an adjustable height option so you can move the chair up and down to whatever height works best for you. Remember, your arms should be straight.

The chair also comes with a multifunction headrest that provides a comfortable position for your head and neck and gets rid of any problems around straining those. The retractable foot pads that come with the chair make sure that you can keep your legs in a comfortable position with support as well. You can also use it to just relax when you take a break from work.

The chair has an ergonomic armrest as well. You can move it up or down, and it provides good support and comfort when you're sitting in various different postures. The armrest is important, since resting your elbows is necessary if you want to hold them at the right angle.

The chair is also made of breathable mesh material that allows airflow and makes the sitting experience comfortable.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is not an easy condition to live with. In fact, it is actually quite difficult! But it is not the end of the world. With some deliberate changes to your lifestyle and making sure you're not stressing your wrist and arms out too much, you can easily reverse it and go back to being healthy again.

Health is always the number one priority, so if you think you have CTS, get yourself checked out by a doctor and keep the tips we mentioned in mind.