Avoiding Carpal Tunnel
Working on a computer all day can be taxing on your hands and wrists, increasing your risk of developing chronic stress injuries like carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel is a numbness and tingling in the hand and arm caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist. The nerve being pinched is the median nerve—the main nerve in the forearm that supplies feeling to all of a person’s fingers except for the pinky.
Carpal tunnel is particularly common in the workplace and can be caused by repetitive motions, such as typing. It can also be caused by preexisting conditions, such as hypothyroidism, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Because it is debilitating and can impact your work, it’s important to be aware of common symptoms of carpal tunnel, including:
- Tingling or numbness in your fingers
- Weakness in your hand
- Shock-like feelings that move into your fingers
- Tingling that moves up into your arm
While carpal tunnel is commonly associated with computer-based occupations, any task that involves repetitive wrist motions could cause an injury. Certain tasks performed by agricultural workers, assembly line workers, mechanics, painters, electronic industry workers, locksmiths, construction workers and many more can all cause carpal tunnel.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to reduce stress and strain on your hands and wrists to avoid carpal tunnel:
- Use less force—Using a softer touch when gripping tools or using your computer keyboard could reduce pressure on your median nerve and bring relief to your hands and wrists while you work.
- Stay neutral—Avoid bending your wrists all the way up or down. Movements like these could increase your risk of developing carpal tunnel.
- Avoid repetitive hand or wrist motions—If there’s a task that you always do with your right hand, try doing it with your left hand instead to give your wrist a break.
- Stretch often—Stretching can help keep your wrists loose, preventing carpal tunnel symptoms.
If you have any questions about carpal tunnel in the workplace, talk to your supervisor.
The Importance of Staying Active at Work
Getting the recommended amount of physical activity at work can be a challenge, particularly if you spend most of your workday sitting at a desk. Whether you take a walk, bike or actively stretch, doing exercise of any kind can provide an energy boost for the remainder of your workday and keep you healthy.
This is important, as sitting for extended periods of time is associated with increased health risks, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Slow metabolism
- Heart disease
Being active during your workday can also reduce stress levels. High stress rates can lead to impaired mental well-being, depression-like symptoms and high blood pressure—all of which negatively impact your overall health.
Performing just 30 minutes of activity five days a week could improve your health. To stay active in the workplace, consider the following tips:
- Stand up regularly.
- Re-engineer your work environment and, if possible, use things like standing workstations to incorporate more movement into your workday.
- Take an active lunch break instead of eating lunch at your workstation.
- Track your steps. Tracking your daily activity can be an excellent way to motivate yourself to stay active during long workdays.
- Take small stretch breaks at your desk to extend your spine and loosen tense muscles caused by prolonged sitting.
Next time you have a break in your day or you’re feeling a little tense, try getting up and getting active. Doing so can help improve your health now and into the future.
For further guidance on staying active at work, consult your supervisor.