If you experience occasional or lingering weakness, pain, numbness or tingling in your wrist (and perhaps extending through to your forearm and hand, and fingers), then there’s a good chance that you have a condition that the American College of Rheumatology refers to as the most common nerve disorder experienced today: carpal tunnel syndrome.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs through a narrow passage on the palm side of the wrist (aptly called the “carpal tunnel”) becomes pinched or compressed. An estimated 3 percent of men and 2 percent of women will be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in their lifetime. That’s the bad news.
Tips for Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The good news, is that there are some simple ways to help prevent the onset or reduce the wrist pain from carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are 7 tips to keep in mind:
- If you’re performing repeated motions – with a computer/device or without (e.g. knitting, gardening, etc.), then regularly switch hands and change positions.
- Every 10-15 minutes, take a short break to rest your hands (and yes, this means no picking up your smartphone to check emails and texts!).
- Improve your overall physical health by reducing salt intake, drinking plenty of water, maintaining a healthy body weight, and of course, quitting smoking.
- Per your doctor’s approval, develop a fitness routine that includes arm, hand and finger exercises that increase flexibility and strength.
- Pay close attention to posture. Many people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome may have their hands and wrists in the correct position for typing (and other activities), but their posture is misaligned.
- Wear a wrist splint, which keeps your wrist in a neutral position when you’re sleeping. You may be unaware that the bulk of damage you do happens at night when you don’t realize it.
- Talk to your employer about adding ergonomic furniture to your work environment. Factors such as chair firmness, desk height and keyboard layout can all contribute to a pinched median nerve.
A Final Word of Warning
Don’t ignore the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. What might be intermittent pain or numbness today, can lead to a debilitating condition in the future that may result in surgery, hospitalization and prolonged or even permanent mobility limitations. Make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor to get your questions answered, and develop a personal care plan that is right for you and your health.