Although it’s too early to estimate the pandemic's effect on rates of carpal tunnel syndrome, the numbers have likely increased. With people working from home at their kitchen table or beds, it's probable that their posture and hand positioning are not ideal.
Repetitive awkward motions can create pressure on the wrist, which can then lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition, even before the pandemic, some experts noted an uptick in cases due to excessive smartphone and device use.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this painful condition. At Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute in Northport, Alabama, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon Bryan King, MD, and his expert medical team have extensive experience diagnosing and treating carpal tunnel syndrome. Here, they share tips on how to prevent this common nerve condition.
The carpal tunnel is a passageway between your wrist and hand that surrounds the median nerve. When this tunnel gets compressed and pinches the median nerve, it can lead to pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling in your thumb and fingers.
Compression can occur for a variety of reasons. Often, it's the result of repetitive use due to someone's profession, such as carpentry or using power tools or frequent computer use. It's also common among new mothers who may experience strain on their wrists due to holding their newborn or carrying around a car seat, along with their hormonal changes.
Anyone can develop carpal tunnel syndrome, but it's more common in women, people over 40, those with diabetes, and anyone with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Regardless of your gender or profession, there are ways to reduce your risk of developing this condition.
There are many simple ways you can readjust your workspace or modify your routine to help reduce the stress on your wrist. Tips include:
To reduce the pressure on your wrists from repetitive movements, switch them up. For example, if you use your right hand, try doing a task with your left hand. Also, instead of doing one task for a long time, alternate tasks so you're not doing the same one for too long.
Often, we feel the pressure of a deadline or the need to finish a project or task and don't move until we're done. Set a timer on your smartphone, and be sure to give yourself regular breaks to walk around and stretch throughout the day. Shoot for a 10- to 15-minute break per hour.
At your computer station, are your wrists in a neutral position? If not, you may be straining your wrist unnecessarily. Try to adjust your workspace so your wrists are in a neutral position, not bent upward or downward, while you type.
Cold hands make joints stiff. Simply wearing fingerless gloves or keeping your work environment at a comfortable temperature can help.
If you're experiencing pain and weakness in your wrist, seeing a specialist such as Dr. King can prevent your condition from worsening. Early treatment and prevention can relieve and reduce symptoms.
If you're experiencing wrist or hand pain, call Tuscaloosa Orthopedic & Joint Institute to make an appointment with Dr. King for a personalized treatment plan.