Our lives got so busy over time. We’re working 8-9 hours a day (some even more) and we don’t really pay attention to the small things, like how much pressure we put on our joints and how that is going to affect our health in the long run.
One of the most common disorders experienced by those working long hours on the computer (and not only) is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This condition affects the wrist, due to inadequate use of the keyboard and the mouse. Who would’ve thought the manner in which you click or type could be a disease trigger? Although there are no certain causes of this syndrome, in recent years it has become known as the “mouse disease”. Did you know women are 3 times more likely than men to be diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? We’ve gathered some information about how you can recognize the symptoms and how you can treat and prevent the condition.
When we’re at the office with our eyes “glued” to the screen we blink often, we try correcting our posture on the seat and maybe we even get up every so often trying to get our backs straight. But have you ever given any thought to how you should keep your hand on the mouse? People usually start taking that into consideration only after they feel pain in their joints. Studies have also shown that although it can be linked to working at the office, people performing domestic work, drivers, cashiers, hairdressers, construction workers and other such jobs can also cause this condition.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) occurs when tendons in the wrist are swollen and they tend to apply pressure to the median nerve that runs through the center of the wrist. This condition may lead to numbness or stinging in the hand, outlooks similar to electrical shock in the thumb, index finger and middle finger. These signs often develop over time until they become persistent. Muscle weakness may appear when the condition grows into being severe.
The roots of this problem are mainly unknown, but there are a number of factors or circumstances that may favor the occurrence of this syndrome: diabetes, hypothyroidism, amyloidosis, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, alcoholism, obesity, pregnancy, age and even the type of job you have.
CTS is usually diagnosed by a specialist, after a series of medical investigations (radiography, electromyography with driving speeds and sensitive motor or Durkan, Phalen, Tinnel tests). The treatment is based on the severity of the disease. For mild symptoms, most often it is sufficient to protect your wrist with a brace and take anti-inflammatory drugs, your physician can also prescribe you a local infiltration with steroids. Acupuncture and chiropractic are some alternatives you could look into. In worse cases, when your fingers go constantly numb and your muscle strength is decreased, CTS can lead to surgery.
What can you do to prevent it?
Of course, we don’t want to let this get to the point where the treatment is invasive and painful, so here are some things you can do to avoid this condition.
- When you’re working on a keyboard or with a mouse, make sure your wrists are in a neutral position, rather than flexed;
- The top of the computer screen should be at your eye level. Ideally, the computer display and keyboard are separated in order to adjust them easier. Therefore, in cases of prolonged work it is recommended to use a desktop, not a laptop;
- The arm and forearm should be positioned in a right angle in line with the keyboard;
- Don’t press your wrist against the desk. When you type your hands should not be stretched in an upward position; your keyboard needs to be positioned downward;
- Take a break from work and stretch a bit every hour. Even when you’re working, try to take shorter breaks to let your hands rest, maybe even rotate them a bit;
- Keep all objects you may need – documents, telephone, keyboard, mouse, office supplies – no farther than 16-18 inches away to avoid difficult postures or reaching.
- Take into consideration a setting for your keyboard that allows your forearms to remain parallel to the floor
- Keep your mouse close to the keyboard and at the same height;
- You can also try and customize your workstation so you can avoid repetitive pressure to your joints;
- Squeeze a small rubber ball in your hand five times for about ten seconds and then spread and stretch your fingers out as much as you can for ten seconds, all five times.
This is considered one of the diseases, we modern people have to deal with. Alongside with stress-related conditions, they all represent dangers we’re exposing ourselves to and the best thing to do in these cases is try and prevent them.