Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful condition of the wrist and hand that occurs when the median nerve that runs through the wrist becomes compressed or pinched.
Somewhere between three and six percent of adults currently suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, many of whom work as cashiers, carpenters, or in office jobs.
If your job puts you at an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, keep reading. Listed below are five simple steps you can take today to avoid developing this condition.
1. Adjust Your Posture
Start by evaluating your posture and looking for ways that you unintentionally put extra pressure on your wrists and hands.
Whether you’re sitting at a desk or standing at a cash register, follow these tips to improve your posture:
Position your desk so it’s as low as possible (but avoid letting it touch your legs)
If you stand, your work surface should be close to waist height
Keep hands, wrists, and forearms in line
Keep wrists neutral while typing or using a mouse (hands should not tilt up or to the sides)
Keep elbows close to the sides
Don’t lean on the wrist or heel of the hand
2. Strengthen Wrists and Forearms
You should also make an effort to strengthen the muscles in your wrists and forearms.
You can use a special wrist and forearm blaster to improve your grip strength or try these exercises with a pair of light dumbbells.
Reverse Wrist Curls
While holding your dumbbell, place your forearm flat on a table with your wrists hanging over the edge. Curl your wrist back toward your body as far as it will go, then slowly lower it back down.
Repeat for 10-15 reps, then switch hands.
Wrist Curl Extensions
Hold your dumbbell and flip your forearm over so your palm is facing up. Slowly curl the dumbbell up toward your face and slowly lower it back down. Repeat for 10-15 reps before switching hands.
Grip your dumbbell firmly in your right hand with your forearm flat on the table and your wrist parallel to the ground. Move your hand out slightly to the right, bending at the wrist and keeping the palm facing down. After 15 reps, bend the wrist and move the hand in toward your body.
When you’ve completed another 15 reps, switch hands. Eventually, you should be able to do this with both hands at the same time.
3. Stretch Regularly
Flexibility in the hands, wrists, and forearms is just as important as strength, especially if you use your hands a lot throughout the day.
Below are some simple stretches that will keep your wrists and forearms as mobile as possible:
Kneeling Forearm Stretch
Kneel on a mat and place your palms flat on the ground in front of you. Rotate your wrists so your fingers are facing your body. Sit backward while keeping the heels of your hands flat on the ground. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat two more times.
Reverse Kneeling Forearm Stretch
Stay in the same position you were in for the kneeling forearm stretch, by place the backs of your hands on the mat with your palms facing up. Sit back on the heels again to feel a stretch at the top of the forearms. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat two more times.
For this stretch, simply make a fist with your hands, then slowly extend your fingers and stretch them out as wide as they’ll go. Make a fist again and repeat 10-15 times. You can buy special resistance bands as well that will make this more challenging.
5. Take a Break
Many people work for hours at a time without stopping. This puts a lot of pressure on the hands and wrists and is often a contributing factor in the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
One of the easiest ways you can prevent this disorder is to make sure you’re taking breaks regularly throughout your workday. If you get sucked into your work and forget to take breaks, set a timer to go off every hour and spend a couple of minutes doing the stretches or strengthening exercises outlined above.
Pair those with better posture and you’ll increase your chance of keeping carpal tunnel syndrome away!
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