Are you worried about getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or do you already have some warning signs of pain, tingling, and numbness in your thumb and wrist? If your job or favorite pastime places strain on your wrist, you should learn ways to minimize the stress to prevent trauma and downtime from employment and your favorite hobbies. The good news is that with a little bit of education, there is a lot you can do to protect yourself and prevent your symptoms from getting worse.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by compression of your median nerve as it goes through a narrow “Carpal” tunnel to your wrist. The median nerve provides sensation to your thumb and first three fingers. Overuse, trauma, and inflammatory medical conditions can cause swelling in your wrist, reducing the space through the tunnel, and causing your nerve to get squeezed, resulting in symptoms.
If compression is the cause of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, reducing the pressure on the median nerve while it travels across the wrist is critical. Reducing the stress and strain on your hands and wrists will help reduce and may even prevent symptoms. If you are symptomatic a physical or occupational therapy consult is beneficial as they will evaluate and outline a specific program tailored to your specific needs.
7 Habits to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
1. Maintain good posture
Poor posture causes you to drop your head forward and round your shoulders. This posture causes stress on the bones, muscles, discs, and nerves in your neck and can set off a chain reaction that can lead to problems with the median nerve. Short periods of slouching are acceptable, but when we slouch all day and sleep in the same position, the muscles, bones, and disc constantly get the same pressure which eventually leads to breakdown. Maintaining good posture more than poor is critical to reducing musculoskeletal problems.
2. Keep Wrist Neutral
Keeping your wrist in a straight, neutral position takes the pressure off your median nerve. Using your wrist at end range positions of flexion or extension stresses the median nerve.
3. Night Brace
Wearing a wrist brace when you sleep will prevent you from sleeping with your wrist in an extreme position of being flexed or extended. It might also help to wear it during activities that trigger your symptoms.
4. Give Yourself a Break
If your work or hobby requires intense use of your wrist and hands, give yourself a break every hour. Go for a short one-minute walk around the house. Stretch your whole body into extension by leaning backward. (Sitting places you in a flexed posture.) A ten-minute break every hour is ideal. This is especially important if you use tools that vibrate or make you apply a lot of force.
5. Stretch Often
When you take those breaks, perform simple wrist stretches:
- Step 1: Put your hands together under your chin in a prayer position.
- Step 2: Push your hands down to your waist until you feel a moderate stretch. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Repeat between two and four times.
- Make a fist
- Release your fingers and fan them out. Stretch them as far as you can.
- Repeat 5-10 times
6. Change It Up
Try to avoid using the same hand and wrist motions repeatedly. For example, if you have a task that you always do with your right hand, do it with your left instead. Or, mix up your tasks as much as possible to give your muscles a break.
7. Anti-inflammatory diet
Inflammation is a protective mechanism that allows your body to defend itself against infection, illness, or injury. It can also occur on a chronic basis, which can lead to various diseases. Eating unhealthy foods, drinking alcohol or sugary beverages, and getting little physical activity are all associated with increased inflammation. Choose a balanced diet that cuts out processed products and boosts your intake of whole, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods. Avoid or minimize sugary foods and beverages, processed meat, excessive alcohol, and foods high in refined carbs and unhealthy fats.
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