Reducing Your Risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is most often caused by activity associated with repetitive hand motion on the job. Those most at risk, such as keyboard operators, factory workers, typists, musicians, barbers, and bus drivers, can do much to prevent development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Ergonomic specialists can help you set up your workplace to be as comfortable and efficient as possible.

You may reduce your chances of getting carpal tunnel syndrome by taking these steps:

  • Minimize repetitive hand movements when possible.
  • Alternate between activities or tasks to reduce the strain on your body.
  • When using your wrists, keep them straight and let your arms and shoulders share the stress.
  • Use your whole hand or both hands to pick up an item.
  • Avoid holding an object the same way for a long time.
  • If you work in an office, adjust your desk, chair, and keyboard so you are in the best possible position:
    • Back straight
    • Feet flat on the floor or resting on a footrest
    • Knees level with or slightly lower than your hips
    • Shoulders in a neutral position, not forward or back
    • Elbows bent at a 90 degree angle
    • Forearms parallel to the floor and wrists straight
  • Take breaks at least once an hour to:
    • Rest or shake your hands.
    • Massage the palms and backs of your hands.
    • Do a few stretches and loosening movements of the shoulders and arms before settling in to work. Do them often during the day.
  • Keep hands warm, with gloves if necessary.
  • Get regular aerobic exercise such as walking or swimming.
  • Cut down on caffeine and smoking, which may reduce blood flow to your hands.

According to a report published by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a simple warm-up routine may greatly reduce the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The warm-up routine is as follows:

  1. Hold your hands in front of you as if pushing on a wall. Count to five.
  2. Relax your wrists and fingers.
  3. Make tight fists with both hands.
  4. Bend both fists downward. Count to five.
  5. Repeat each step ten times.
  6. Then shake arms loosely while hanging at your side.

A simple change in how your wrists are positioned during sleep may reduce your risk of getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Sleep with your wrists cocked upward instead of bent downward to minimize pressure in the carpal tunnel.

Revision Information

  • American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home.html .

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aaos.org .

  • Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research website. Available at: http://www.mayo.edu .

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration website. Available at: http://www.osha.gov .