5 Easy Ways to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition of the wrist caused by excessive pressure on your median nerve, which is the central nerve in your wrist. Carpal tunnel can lead to tingling and numbness, weakness in your fingers and hands, and constant pain. Carpal tunnel can be caused by many factors, like genetics or repetitive motions (i.e. typing). While genetic causes of carpal tunnel syndrome are not preventable, you can take steps that will reduce your risk of developing it in other ways.
Keep Your Wrists in a Neutral Position as Much as Possible
The most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is repetitive flexing of your wrist. Typing, eating, and playing tennis are all examples of motions that cause rhythmic and repetitive flexing of the wrist.
Try to keep your wrists in as neutral a position as possible when performing these activities to prevent further strain. A “neutral position” is similar to the handshake position, which doesn’t require you to bend your wrist. The more often you can keep your wrists in a neutral position, the less strain you will put on your median nerve.
Take Breaks and Stretch
If you cannot avoid repetitive activities like typing or chopping, take a break ever 20-40 minutes to give your wrists time to rest. A break only has to last a minute or two to help prevent undue stress on your nerves.
While you’re taking a break, stretch your wrists out to further prevent tension. Place one hand in front of you in the “stop” motion, and use your other hand to gently pull your fingers back towards your body. Hold for five seconds. Then, bend your wrist so your fingers are pointing at the floor and use your other hand to pull your fingers gently towards your body. Hold for five seconds. Repeat ten times on each hand.
Exercise Your Wrists
Aside from stretching to relieve pressure, you can also try to strengthen your wrist muscles, which will take tension off of your hands and arms. Try “Pushing the Wall,” an exercise that is performed by placing your hands straight out in the “stop” motion in front of your body – as if you’re pushing the wall away from you. Hold for five seconds, relax your wrists, and repeat ten times.
You can also make loose fists with your hands for five seconds at a time and then release for 1-2 seconds. Repeat 10 times. This strengthens wrist muscles as well as promoting circulation in your hands and fingers.
Use Properly Sized Tools
Using a mouse, knife, or pen that is too small or too large forces you to use extra effort to hold it. This extra force causes muscle tension and fatigue which can inflame your carpal tunnel and strain your wrists. If you are able to hold and move your tools while your wrist is in a neutral, or almost neutral, position, it is properly sized for your hands.
Watch Your Posture
Slouching puts strain on your neck and shoulders which, in turn, puts strain on your arms and wrists. Try to sit and stand with your back straight and head pulled back so your ears are level with your shoulders and your chin is balanced. If you work with computers, try to level the screens so you can look directly at them instead of craning your head up or down, which can ruin your posture.