Spending lots of time performing activities that target your wrists and hands will inevitably lead to a series of problems. The same rule applies when you use vibrating equipment or you keep your wrists in the same unnatural position for long periods of time.
The initial discomfort is slightly ignored until it becomes a nightmare – this is when the carpal tunnel syndrome kicks in. Whether it comes to working in an office, driving, using a sanding machine or knitting, learning how to prevent carpal tunnel will prevent pains, discomfort and longterm issues.
Treating the affection is not that difficult if you identify it early and react fast. Obviously, just like for any other issue, learning how to prevent it is way more efficient.
You do not have to make any drastic changes to your lifestyle or work, but just pay attention to small details that will inevitably make your life easier.
If you already experience a slight discomfort, you can still make some changes to prevent the actual syndrome. All in all, here is everything you need to know about preventing the carpal tunnel syndrome, regardless of what causes it.
1. How To Prevent Carpal Tunnel At Work
At this point, it depends on the type of work you do. If you work in an office, it pays off setting the environment with your needs in mind. Even if you have been given a workstation as it is, slight adjustments will add to your comfort. At this point, everything is about ergonomics.
Keep pretty much everything in front of you – you should not have to stretch to reach things, twist or turn to do it. Chances are you will end up using your arms and wrists instead – it feels easier. When it comes to a keyboard or a mouse, it should be as low as possible – but make sure these devices do not touch your legs.
For example, the keyboard should ensure a natural position – forearms must be parallel to the ground. You can also have them slightly lowered, but this is pretty much it. If you have to work in a standing position – be it typing or packing things, the work surface should be around your waist.
The elbows should be kept close to your sides. While this aspect does not seem to affect the wrists, keeping elbows far from your body will put a strain on the arms, as well as the wrists. It makes no difference what kind of job you do.
Consider using a completely different grip too. What kind of tools do you use? How are you supposed to hold them? Is there a different way to do your job?
You could be a writer or an account or you could be packing goods. No matter what type of equipment you use, try holding the tool in a different position. Find a position that keeps your wrists straight and aligned. You may also prevent carpal tunnel by switching hands – it works with some tools.
How To Prevent Carpal Tunnel While Typing
Office work is one of the most common reasons behind this affection. Changing the way you work and type may also prevent carpal tunnel.
If you need to use a keyboard, try changing the way you type. Most people are quite aggressive in typing, especially when they type without even looking at the keyboard. Hit the keys in a softer way and you may notice some changes. If you have to use a pen instead, get a big one with an oversized grip. Free flowing ink is also a plus, as there is not too much pressure required.
Keep an eye on the way you type and your form as well. Most people bend their wrists. They go up or down. If the keyboard and mouse are at the right level, there are no reasons to do that. A relaxing position in the middle is ideal. Simply opt for an elbow height. Instead of having the keyboard on the top, a tray around your waist would be much better.
Believe it or not, the posture affects such issues too. You can prevent carpal tunnel by simply working on your posture. If the posture is not right, your shoulders will inevitably go forward. Your neck feels a bit short, while pressure will target your muscles. At the same time, all the nerves in your back will be pressured and compressed. While it may not make sense, an incorrect posture will also affect your wrists and hands.
Do not be afraid to upgrade your equipment. A classic computer mouse involves resting your wrist on the pad and bending it upwards. It is not the ideal position. These days, you can invest in ergonomic vertical mice. Not only do they provide a comfortable and natural position, but they also come with extra features for convenience.
The same rule applies to keyboards. There are many options out there that can prevent carpal tunnel. For example, a split V shaped keyboard could do the trick. There are two piece keyboards as well. What works for some people will not work for everyone else – plus, whether you get a new mouse or keyboard, it may take up to a week to get used.
It pays off keeping your hands warm as well. Work in a cold environment and stiffness and discomfort will inevitably kick in. Turn the air conditioning off – you will get used to the temperature. Get some extra clothes if you feel cold.
You can also do some exercises for hands and take regular breaks. You can stretch your wrists and hands, but also bend them to warm up.
Best Keyboard To Prevent Carpal Tunnel
The best keyboard to prevent carpal tunnel is supposed to be easy on your wrists. Therefore, you might have to change the way you are used to type. Unless the keyboard is a couple of feet away from you (the length of your arms), your elbows will be bent. At this point, wrists have a natural V position, but you have to bend them a little in order to type.
While having a keyboard a few feet away from you is extremely uncomfortable for arms, more manufacturers have come up with a different idea – the V shaped keyboard. It is split in two and each side has specific keys. It basically tells you which keys to use with each hand. Sometimes, the keyboard is fixed in that V position. Other times, you may get a keyboard consisting of two different parts – just place them at the right angle.
Flat and contracted keyboards are also recommended because they bring in short and light presses. They do not require too much force to type, so they are great against carpal tunnel, as well as other similar affections like arthritis.
Soft touch keyboards in the right V design will also provide a good experience. Such ergonomic keyboards are great for those with delicate fingers. They are sensitive to light touches, so a basic touch is usually enough to register the press. On another note, these keyboards are quiet and less likely to disturb your coworkers.
If you simply do not want to quit mechanical keyboards, opt for one with low actuation forces. What does it mean? Simple – pressing keys is so easy that a bit of a touch will register the press.
2. Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome When Sleeping
Most people do not realize it. They assume that a bad keyboard or an uncomfortable position will cause the carpal tunnel. Sure, these are some of the main causes associated with it. The bad news is that you will not experience too much discomfort or pain while working, so the affection often goes unnoticed. Problems tend to kick in when you are done working – even worse, when you fully rest at night.
Carpal tunnel pains are common at night because the tissue fluids in your arms are gone. They go to places where the body can sense some muscle activity. You are not moving, so these fluids move on – this is when the pain in your wrists kicks in then.
Movement is out of discussion because you would not really be able to go to sleep. However, positioning the right way could solve the issue or at least ameliorate the symptoms. How you sleep is very likely to determine the pressure, so adopting a good position can prevent carpal tunnel signs.
So, what positions should you avoid and how should you sleep then?
Sleeping positions to avoid
The fetal position is a contraindication. Lots of people sleep on their sides and they tend to get into the fetal position. Basically, their heads go forward, while shoulders adopt a rounded position. Elbows are bent, while both wrists and fingers naturally flex. There are many reasons wherefore this position is not recommended at all. But when it comes to arthritis and carpal tunnel, even a slight improvement in the wrist position can work wonders.
As if all these were not enough, the fetal position also promotes nerve compression and can bring in shoulder and elbow injuries, as well as a stiff cervical spine in the morning. There is no support for your back and hips either.
Sleeping on your stomach is another bad idea due to the extra stress on your wrists. Other nerve compression issues may also arise.
Sleeping positions to use
Sleeping on your back is great because there is no pressure on your back. Forget about nerve compression in your wrists, shoulders and elbows too. If you want even more comfort, keep your legs propped up – a pillow under your legs will do.
Sleeping on a side is not bad either, as long as you do not go in the fetal position. It happens unconsciously, so how do you prevent it? Simply hug a pillow – or a large body pillow. Carpal tunnel stress can also be handled with a wrist brace – a good idea when sleeping on a side.
If you want some extra support for your back and hips too, a pillow between your legs will do a good job.
Keep in mind that there might be different considerations for pregnant women, so check with your specialist doctor if you are not sure about the best sleeping position.
3. Exercises To Prevent Carpal Tunnel
You can prevent carpal tunnel symptoms with some exercises. However, these exercises will not work by themselves. You will still have to get a proper keyboard, the right mouse, change your grip or working posture and position.
Other than that, exercises to prevent carpal tunnel pains are not like gym. When you go to a gym, you have to push. You need to feel that pain if you want to see some difference. This rule does not apply for this affection. If you can feel the pain, you better stop or you can aggravate the symptoms – do these exercises in a mild manner.
You might have done such exercises as a kid – they were fun back then and they can be excellent today. The exercise is fairly simple and can be done anywhere, anytime. You have to put your hands together in a praying position – the only difference is that your fingers should be orientated downwards, rather than upwards. Spread your fingers apart, but without losing contact. The palms of your hands can go as far as you can, but keep the fingers together. The exercise is easy, but it works on a few structures, such as the medial nerve or the carpal tunnel parts. It is not an embarrassing exercise and can be done without anyone noticing it.
There are no official names for this exercise. Simply place an arm in front of yourself – shoulder level. Keep it straight and make sure the wrist is in an extended position. Let the fingers loose, so they will face the floor.
Spread the fingers a little and use the other hand to apply some pressure. Apply pressure on top of the downward facing hand. It will stretch both your fingers and your wrist. You will feel a little discomfort when the downward facing hand is almost at a 90 degree angle – stop at that point. Hold the position for 20 seconds and perform the same exercise for the other hand.
Shakes will also help to prevent carpal tunnel issues and they do not require too much work. Sometimes, you see people performing such exercises out of instinct. Imagine washing your hands and trying to dry them naturally. You would keep them in front of your belly and shake them up and down. This is exactly what the exercise is about.
You have to do this for a couple of minutes every hour. It will not affect your work, but it will help you relax instead.
Other Simple Exercises To Prevent Carpal Tunnel Pains
O shapes are easy and convenient. The tip of each finger must touch the tip of your thumb in rotation. Simply try to create a classic O between your thumb and any other finger. Work on both hands simultaneously.
Fists are also easy to perform – you have two variations here. You can make a fist, then slide your fingers towards the ceiling – imagine telling someone to stop. You can also slide your fingers out and stretch them as much as you can. Alternate between these two exercises.
Bonus – Will a Wrist Brace Help Prevent Carpal Tunnel?
A wrist brace may seem more common in gyms or sports people. Those who suffer from wrist injuries can use these braces to ensure their wrists are straight and pains are ameliorated. Since the carpal tunnel syndrome could also be described as an injury, a wrist brace will also help against this affection.
The primary role of a wrist brace is to keep the wrist in a natural position. It will be straight and neutral. You can wear it anywhere, even in work. If your work activities put pressure on your wrists and trigger painful sensations and discomfort, a wrist brace will ease your job and add to your comfort.
The wrist brace is just as handy at night, when you can unconsciously keep the wrist in a bad position. It will relieve the signs and can even prevent the affection.
Sure, wearing a wrist brace for eight hours in work and another eight hours when you sleep could be daunting – sweaty wrists and a bit of discomfort. Feel free to take breaks every now and then – remove the brace when you perform exercises or take breaks.
These articles may be useful for you:
- Carpal tunnel desk setup – everything you need to know
- Best desk for carpal tunnel
- Can you get carpal tunnel from gaming?
As a short final conclusion, there are ways to prevent carpal tunnel, as well as the signs associated with it if you overlooked your problems for too long. Whether you want to prevent it or you try to ameliorate the symptoms, a few changes to your working style and lifestyle will work wonders in the long run. None of the above mentioned methods will work overnight, but within weeks or even months.