Almost everyone uses a keyboard these days, either at work, at home, or both as communicating by computer is the new normal. Repetitive motions, such as typing, or any motions of the wrist that you do over and over can bring on carpal tunnel syndrome. It is caused by pressure on your median nerve, which runs the length of the arm, goes through a passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel, and ends in the hand. When the median nerve goes through your wrist, it passes through a narrow path – the carpal tunnel – that is made of bone and ligament. If you get swelling in your wrist, this tunnel gets squeezed and pinches your median nerve, which causes your symptoms which can include numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.
Some causes of carpal tunnel are not preventable, but there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing this condition:
Take Care of Your Wrists
1. Maintain a neutral wrist position as often as you can. Flexing your wrist into the position when you say “stop” with your hand. This is the repetitive movement that can cause symptoms if done repeatedly for long periods of time.
2. Take breaks. Stop your wrist activity on a regular basis and give yourself a 1-2 minute break.
3. Relax your grip and reduce your force. Loosening your grip when performing daily tasks and using less force when pressing your fingers like typing on your keyboard.
4. Maintain your overall health. Finding a good balance with your exercise, nutrition, and sleep habits will in turn help keep your overall body healthy and sound.
5. Consider wearing a wrist splint if you need one. A wrist brace keeps your wrist in a neutral position. You can wear these while you work or at night if you find yourself flexing your wrists when you sleep. These splints can be found in most pharmacies.
6. Keep your hands warm. If you work in a cold environment, you are more likely to develop pain and stiffness in your hands.
Being Ergonomically Sound While Working at a Keyboard
1. Keep your forearms level with the keyboard. You should not have to reach up or down to reach your keyboard.
2. Maintain proper posture . Sit up tall in your chair to avoid straining any part of your upper body.
3. Keep your hands and wrists in line with your forearms.
4. Use tools that are the proper size for your hands.
5. Consider using a vertical mouse.
6. Considering getting a split keyboard. This allows your hands to rest in the handshake position when typing. Try one at an office supply store before purchasing as it may not be for you!
If you start to have persistent problems with your wrists, and/or you being to experience the symptoms mentioned above, don’t wait to be seen by an orthopedic physician to be evaluated. We are always available. Simply call 515-955-6767 to schedule an appointment. No referral is necessary.