As a full-time writer who spends the majority of her time pounding the keyboard or clutching a pen, I'm always on the lookout for the healthiest ways to prevent carpal tunnel. If you work with your hands, it seems like carpal tunnel is almost a guarantee. My mother, a nurse of 30 years, and my father, a carpenter for just as long, have both had carpal tunnel surgery, so given that and the nature of my job, I can probably look forward to it myself. You could be a writer, an artist, a doctor, or a stay at home mom; if your hands are your livelihood, this could be a problem for you as well. In order to stay in good health and avoid the pain of both the syndrome and the corrective surgery, try some of these ways to prevent carpal tunnel from ruining your hands.
1. Stop Pounding the Keyboard
Many of the most effective ways to prevent carpal tunnel simply involve changing your habits. If you spend most of the day at a keyboard or even at a cash register, look not just at your keystroke, but at the pressure you use on the keys. If you're bashing the hell of your keys, you're harming your hands, fingers, and wrists. A lighter touch is necessary to reduce the stress on your muscles, and all those small, fragile bones in your hands.
2. Give Yourself a Break
Although this tip is self explanatory, it's invaluable. When you work with your hands, you have to take breaks. My mother in law is a massage therapist who also does Reiki and a variety of other naturopathic healing remedies. Some days she has up to five massages and healing appointments. Needless to say, that really gives her hands a workout! She advocates taking frequent breaks to stretch your fingers, massage your palms and wrists, and let your hands relax. Stay tuned for another professional tip from my fab MIL!
3. Brace Yourself
There are all sorts of special gloves and braces designed to help your hands. A lot of them are necessary after you've had carpal tunnel surgery, but they're quite helpful when you start feeling the symptoms as well. Look for something that will brace your wrist to keep it from extreme movements, but make sure you don't wear anything too tight – you need to keep up good circulation.
4. Rearrange Your Desk
The layout of your desk plays an important part in keeping your hands healthy. Make sure that your keyboard is at the right angle, that your mouse is large and high enough to fit comfortably in your hand, and think about buying a cushioned keyboard pad that you can place in front of your keyboard. The ergonomics of your desk are absolutely vital, so you should also make sure that your mouse and your keyboard are within easy reach – judge by your forearm – and that your chair is high or low enough to make you level with your keyboard.
5. Warm Hands, Warm Heart
Keeping your hands warm is a great way to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. When your hands are cold, they're more likely to stiffen up and start to hurt. You may even want to think about wearing fingerless gloves while you work.
6. Perfect Your Posture
Your posture has a huge impact on the health of your hands. If you're slouched over with your shoulders hunched forward, you'll seriously shorten and compress the muscles and nerves in your neck. That problem is far reaching, ultimately affecting your hands and your wrists.
7. Pamper Your Hands
Back to my mother in law's excellent advice! Make sure you pamper your hands whenever you can. Go get a hand massage and ask for a reflexology treatment. If you can't afford that, you can either learn to give yourself a hand massage or ask your significant other to learn – and then you can do the same for him or her. Your hands will really benefit, especially after days when you've overworked your hands.
Even if you feel the onset of carpal tunnel, you can almost reverse it if you keep up good habits. When I started experiencing telltale moments of pain and numbness, the combination of these techniques helped me get my hands back in order. Are you at risk for carpal tunnel? If so, let us know the steps you take to prevent it.