Doing a task that requires any repetitive or forceful hand or wrist movement puts you at an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Even mundane tasks like driving or knitting can cause pain and weakness which can develop into something more significant. In order to reduce your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, consider the following preventive measures.
Use Proper Body Mechanics
First of all, watch your posture. Keep your shoulders from rolling forward so your neck and shoulder muscles are not compressing the nerves in your neck, something that also affects your fingers, hands and wrists. Second, avoid bending your wrist completely in either direction. A relaxed position somewhere in the middle is ideal. Finally, relax your grip and use only the amount of force needed to complete your task.
Arrange Your Workspace
Your work space should be as ergonomic as possible to avoid unnecessary strains and pressures on your body. Avoid working or sitting in awkward positions and arrange your work station so that your desk, chair, computer and other tools are situated in the most efficient, safe and productive way. Keep your keyboard at elbow height or slightly lower, for example, and arrange any other work places in your life according to the same principles.
Take Frequent Breaks
To avoid repetitive movements, make a change. Getting up routinely to stretch and move during the workday is a great preventative. Alternating tasks or switching hands when possible is also effective in minimizing the stress on your fingers, hands and wrists.
Do Stretching Exercises
A specialist from the Institute for Nonsurgical Orthopedics & Osteopathic Therapy suggests one specific wrist stretch for preventing carpal tunnel—the “prayer stretch”. Place your palms together (as if you were praying) and put them in front of your chest just below your chin. Keep your hands close to your body as you slowly lower them toward your waist until you feel a slight stretch under your forearms. Hold that position for as long as 30 seconds. Repeat 2 – 4 times.
Keep Your Hands Warm
You don’t have to be in a cold work environment to have cold hands at work. If you do work in the cold, wear gloves whenever possible. If you simply get cold hands at times, consider wearing something, such as fingerless gloves, to keep your hands from getting tense and constricted when they’re cold.
Staying in good general health, including maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, is a great way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. While there is no single exercise that will ensure you avoid carpal tunnel, utilizing these preventative strategies will decrease your likelihood of experiencing this troublesome condition.