About 5% of people around the world suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, or the compression of the median nerve in the hand. While the condition is often associated with computer-related injuries like typing, it can also occur due to sudden impact or prolonged vibration. Carpal tunnel syndrome can be classified into mild, moderate and severe cases. Symptoms most notably include:
- Muscle weakness.
- Decreased mobility.
If you work long hours in the office, outdoors or in an assembly line, you could be at an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Thankfully, you can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by making a few lifestyle changes. Pinpointing risk factors in your daily routine can also help you more easily find prevention tools that work for you.
Why does carpal tunnel syndrome happen?
Tingly fingers can be a major indicator of carpal tunnel syndrome. But why does tingling happen in the first place? Usually, symptoms start when inflammation from the tendons aggravates the carpal tunnel, or the narrow passageway in the inside of your palm. Inflammation can thicken the tunnel, which presses against the median nerve. This nerve controls much of the feeling in your hand, especially in the space between your thumb and your fingers. When that nerve is compressed, your sense of feeling can be interrupted.
Inflammation of the carpal tunnel can happen for a variety of reasons, including:
- Sudden trauma.
- Prolonged vibration, such as from power tools.
- Overuse injuries, like tendinitis.
Repetitive movement is one of the most common causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, as overusing the hand and fingers can quickly inflame the tendons. However, carpal tunnel syndrome can also be genetically linked, especially since studies have shown it occurs more often in women than in men. The condition can also be caused by rheumatoid inflammation.
What can you do to prevent carpal tunnel from happening?
If left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can become progressive and lead to permanent damage to the median nerve. Since other hand conditions can have similar symptoms to carpal tunnel syndrome, accurate diagnosis can be crucial to preventing it. Nonsurgical therapies like physical therapy, wrist splinting and medication can help treat symptoms. However, the injury can often also be prevented from happening in the first place. The following are ways you can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by making simple changes in your daily routine:
- Make ergonomic changes — If your work requires repetitive hand movements, you can be at a higher risk of developing overuse injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. You can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms by making small ergonomic changes in your environment. A study showed that the intensity of employees’ hand pain significantly decreased when their workstation was adjusted for proper alignment. You can adjust your desk and chair heights for optimum comfort. You can also adjust your body mechanics, like making sure your forearms and hands are in line with your elbows while typing. In addition, your wrists should be held flat on the keyboard and not at an angle. Both environmental and biomechanical changes can help you minimize the inflammation of your tendons and limit strain on your median nerve, thereby preventing carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
- Exercise your hands — Incorporating hand exercises into your daily routine can help you build muscle and tendon strength. Doing so can also encourage blood flow to your hand and decrease inflammation. As a result, strengthening hand exercises can decrease your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Squeezing a stress ball can offer a quick and convenient whole-hand exercise. For those already struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome, resistance training can help reduce symptoms. A study showed that patients with chronic pain in their upper limbs significantly reduced their pain intensity through resistance training.
- Take breaks — Since overuse is one of the most common carpal tunnel syndrome causes, scheduling breaks can be crucial. You can adjust your work schedule to incorporate regular breaks that alleviate pressure from your hand. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends taking microbreaks every 10 minutes to increase blood flow and reduce stiffness. Doing so can also help you prevent the repetitive strain that often leads to carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms.
- Stretch — Breaks can provide opportunities for you to stretch your hands between intense working sessions. A study showed that performing hand stretches can significantly reduce hand pain among office workers. This is because hand stretches can release muscular tension, break up inflammation, relieve stiff joints and ease pressure on the median nerve. As a result, hand stretches can help reduce your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome at work.
- Visit a physical therapist — You don’t only have to visit a physical therapist when you’re in pain. A physical therapist can evaluate your medical history, work life, and the mobility and strength of your hands. Knowing these factors can help you better understand your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome and teach you how to help prevent it in the future. Physical therapists can also guide you on effective exercises and tips that you can implement while at home or at work.
Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for preventing carpal tunnel syndrome
At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and can help you address or prevent carpal tunnel symptoms.
Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform.
Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your hands.