We live in the information age, and many people make a living by sitting at a computer screen all day – and typing. And typing. And typing.... Sitting is bad enough, but the repetitive motion on your wrists and hands can set you up for carpal tunnel syndrome. But you don’t have to accept the desk worker’s fate. A few tips and carpal tunnel exercises can keep your wrists and hands healthy.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is very common. By some estimates, five percent of the American population suffers from this malady, which creates numbness, tingling, pain and/or weakness in the hands and arms due to pinched nerves in the wrist.
First, check your carpal tunnel susceptibility status. Put your elbows on a desk or table, and let both hands flop forward. Rest in that position for 60 seconds. If either hand, wrist or arm starts getting tingly or numb – it’s a good idea to start taking preventative measures and doing carpal tunnel exercises.
- Invest in an ergonomic work station. If you plan on sitting at a desk to work for the next few decades, your investment will pay off dividends. Wrist rests and ergonomic keyboards can alleviate the stress on your hands and arms.
- Use dictation or voice recognition software. Yes, it can be a pain to set up and edit – and if you’re a lightening speed typist, dictation will be slower. But using dictation at least some of the time for your work will help reduce the amount of time you are whacking away on the keyboard. Your future health is worth more than being able to write a few more words per minute.
- Don’t pound the keyboard. Retrain yourself to type lightly and with as little force as possible.
- Practice yoga and exercise regularly. Both may help to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
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- Take frequent breaks. Standing and stretching is not only good for your wrists, it’s good for your whole body. Set a timer if you have to. You can also force yourself to take frequent breaks by drinking lots of water – which will make bathroom trips a more common occurrence.
- Stretch your hands, wrists and arms. Stretch in the morning before you start work, and in the evening after you finish. During your breaks, use the time to stretch as well. Try one or more of the following carpal tunnel exercises:
- Gently shake both hands.
- Hold your arms out in front of your body with palms facing down. Bend both hands back towards your body gently, and hold for 20 seconds.
- Clench your fist tightly, then release your hand and spread your fingers out wide. Repeat.
- “Spiders doing push-ups on a mirror” – Touch your right hand and your left hand together at the fingertips. Press your palms toward each other, then away. Repeat.
- Place your hands on a flat surface, such as your desk, spread out your fingers and hold for 20 seconds.
Remember, the best carpal tunnel exercises are the ones that you will actually do. Choose your favorites, and commit to doing your stretches – and to a healthy hand future!
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