Working on a computer all day can be taxing on your hands and wrists, increasing your risk of developing chronic stress injuries like carpal tunnel. Carpal tunnel is a numbness and tingling in the hand and arm caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist. The nerve being pinched is the median nerve—the main nerve in the forearm that supplies feeling to all of a person’s fingers except for the pinky.
Carpal tunnel is particularly common in the workplace and can be caused by repetitive motions, such as typing. It can also be caused by preexisting conditions, such as hypothyroidism, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. Because it is debilitating and can impact your work, it’s important to be aware of common symptoms of carpal tunnel, including:
- Tingling or numbness in your fingers
- Weakness in your hand
- Shock-like feelings that move into your fingers
- Tingling that moves up into your arm
While carpal tunnel is commonly associated with computer-based occupations, any task that involves repetitive wrist motions could cause an injury. Certain tasks performed by agricultural workers, assembly line workers, mechanics, painters, electronic industry workers, locksmiths, construction workers and many more can all cause carpal tunnel.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to reduce stress and strain on your hands and wrists to avoid carpal tunnel:
- Use less force—Using a softer touh when gripping tools or using your computer keyboard could reduce pressure on your median nerve and bring relief to your hands and wrists while you work.
- Stay neutral—Avoid bending your wrists all the way up or down. Movements like these could increase your risk of developing carpal tunnel.
- Avoid repetitive hand or wrist motions—If there’s a task that you always do with your right hand, try doing it with your left hand instead to give your wrist a break.
- Stretch often—Stretching can help keep your wrists loose, preventing carpal tunnel symptoms.
If you have any questions about carpal tunnel in the workplace, talk to your supervisor.