Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common hand and wrist condition that can cause a variety of symptoms, such as numbness and pain. The good news is there are things you can do to help prevent it.
At Metairie Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Metairie, Louisiana, Robert Douglas Bostick III, MD, is an expert in treating a variety of orthopedic problems, including carpal tunnel syndrome.
He also is an expert in giving guidance on preventing this condition from developing. In this blog, Dr. Bostick explains things you can do to help keep your wrists and hands free from the pain and other symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Understanding carpal tunnel syndrome
Your arms, wrists, and hands contain a number of components, such as bones, tendons, ligaments, and nerves, and they allow you to do a host of things, such as write and open objects. One of these components is the median nerve.
As your median nerve travels from your forearm to your hand, it passes through a tiny passageway in your wrist called the carpal tunnel. If something puts pressure on this passageway and compresses the nerve, you can experience the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, such as:
There are various risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome, including wrist fractures, pregnancy, and inflammatory conditions. Your work may also put you at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome if you use repetitive motions regularly, which can lead to injury within your wrist.
Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome
If you're at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome or simply don't want to become a victim of chronic pain, there are several steps you can take to help prevent this condition from developing.
1. Don’t grip things too tightly
It's easy to get caught up in a project and grip your tools tight or have an aggressive touch when typing. And while you may not think of a heavy hand as bad, it can actually put you at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
So, try to use a light touch when typing on the keyboard or gripping your hammer for home projects. In general, try to be aware of the intensity with which you're using your hands, which can help you avoid pain down the road.
2. Take plenty of breaks
If you're like many people, you get caught up in projects or work and forget to take breaks. However, you're setting yourself up for carpal tunnel syndrome if you don’t allow your hands and wrists to rest.
It's crucial to allow your body to rest at least once per hour, especially if you constantly use your hands and wrists. Try to shake your hands or perform gentle stretches to ease inflammation and discomfort during this time.
3. Stretch often
Along with resting your hands and wrists, try to stretch them throughout the day. This can help you avoid injury and chronic inflammation.
For example, take a break and make a fist. Then, gently straighten your fingers. Repeating stretches like this every so often may help prevent the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
4. Switch hands
Most of us are dominant in one hand. Unfortunately, mainly using one hand could lead to overuse and increase your risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Try to switch hands regularly when using tools or doing a job that requires repetitive movements of your hands and wrists. Switching hands every so often can give your muscles and other tissues a rest, which can help prevent inflammation.
5. Keep your wrists neutral
Regularly bending your wrists past the neutral position can put pressure on your median nerves, which can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. So, try to keep your wrists in a neutral position.
If you find yourself overextending or flexing your wrists a lot, consider investing in a wrist brace, which could help you keep your wrists straight.
6. Avoid repetition
Another way to help prevent developing carpal tunnel is to avoid repetition when possible. If you work at a job that requires you to use your wrists constantly throughout the day, ask your supervisor if you can change up your duties.
Even if you're vigilant and follow the tips above, you may still end up with carpal tunnel syndrome. If this happens to you, Dr. Bostick can develop a plan to help you get well. To learn more about preventing or treating carpal tunnel syndrome, call 504-541-5800 or book an appointment online with Metairie Orthopedics & Sports Medicine today.