Miners, fighter pilots, loggers, and the like all understand and willingly accept the risks of their occupations. But if you steered clear of those obviously life-endangering careers and opted for a less adventurous path, you may be surprised to hear that you’re not entirely in the clear.
Your desk job might not be as safe as you think.
While working in an office may not be as risky as operating heavy machinery or deep sea fishing, it comes with a few inherent pitfalls, and carpal tunnel syndrome tops the list — up to 10 million Americans suffer from this common nerve disorder.
If you’re one of them, help is available at Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Dr. Bryan King, our fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon, offers several nonsurgical treatment options to relieve your symptoms, and expert surgical procedures if and when they become necessary.
However, prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure, so Dr. King has compiled a list of strategies you can incorporate at work to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
Some people are more vulnerable to carpal tunnel syndrome than others. The condition occurs when something compresses the median nerve in your forearm and wrist. This can happen whenever its passageway — or tunnel — narrows due to inflammation or arthritis.
Repetitive finger and hand motion use is the main culprit; that’s why office workers who use a keyboard all day can easily develop carpal tunnel syndrome. But any job or hobby that involves repetitive motions, high force, or vibration can cause inflammation in the carpal tunnel and press on the median nerve.
Symptoms vary from person to person, but numbness and tingling in the fingers are classic signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. You may also experience pain or a burning sensation in your hands and have trouble gripping.
In addition to your job and hobbies, other carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors include:
Women are three times more likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
To sidestep the statistics and avoid carpal tunnel syndrome, try a few of these preventive strategies.
Whether you sit at a computer all day or operate a jackhammer, you can do yourself a favor by stepping away from the repetitive movement at regular intervals several times throughout the day. Try to take 10- to 15-minute breaks and give your hands and arms a rest.
During your breaks, clench your fists, then extend your fingers as far as they go — repeat as many times as you’d like. Do this several times a day to keep your hands and wrists flexible and your circulation flowing.
Do you pound the keyboard when you type? Or maybe you grip your pen like it’s a lifeline. Either way, lightening the pressure and force can help you avoid carpal tunnel.
If your job or hobby puts your wrists in a bent position while you’re working, it increases the pressure on your median nerve. As often as possible, keep your wrists in a straight or neutral position.
Evaluate your posture and seating. It may be that your desk chair is too low or your keyboard is too high. A simple adjustment can make all the difference.
If you already have carpal tunnel syndrome, working in a cold environment can make the pain and stiffness worse. The same goes if you’re trying to avoid carpal tunnel — keeping your wrists and hands warm while you work promotes better movement. If you can’t turn up the heat, try fingerless gloves.
Talking to Dr. King about your carpal tunnel risk factors is one of the best preventive measures you can take. He can advise you about the best ways to keep your hands and wrists safe in your unique job.
Dr. King evaluates your posture, your overall health, and your lifestyle factors to determine exactly which strategies apply to you.
If you end up with carpal tunnel syndrome despite your best efforts to avoid it, we can help with that too. You may benefit from a brace either while you sleep, while you work, or both. Steroid injections can also relieve your symptoms by decreasing pain and inflammation so you can heal.
If conservative measures fail, and your symptoms persist or get worse, you may need surgery to relieve the pressure on your nerve. In that case, your wrist is in the best hands: Dr. King’s. He has many years of experience successfully treating carpal tunnel syndrome and other orthopedic conditions.
To schedule a consultation, call us at 205-391-4440.