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Exercises for Minimizing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Friday, April 10, 2009
By Anne Kramer

As offices rely more and more upon computers, the incidence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) continues to rise. CTS is a type of repetitive stress injury (RSI). It causes pain in the wrists due to nerve compression. It may affect one or both wrists.

Although most office employees would hardly consider their tasks physically strenuous, their repetitive nature takes its own toll on the body. Employees who spend time at the same tasks all the time, even if those tasks are low impact, increase their chances for developing CTS. Therefore it is important to condition the body—just as an athlete would—to prevent these injuries from developing. Conditioning the body for repetitive motion has several advantages:

  • Improved blood flow to the muscles
  • Added strength in the wrists, hands, shoulders, and neck
  • Increased flexibility
  • Reduced chance of developing injuries like CTS
The exercise routine below is ideal for preventing CTS altogether. It is also an effective way to reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate CTS. This routine is not recommended for anyone with severe CTS. If pain persists after these exercises, medical intervention may be necessary. These exercises can be completed right at the workstation.

  1. Hold the arms straight out in front of the body, parallel to the floor. Bend the wrists upward, so palms face outward. Hold for five seconds.

  2. Straighten the wrists and relax the fingers. This is the “resting position,” Hold for five seconds.

  3. Tighten both hands into fists, and bend wrists downward. Hold for five seconds. Return to the resting position.

  4. Repeat this routine ten times. After completion, relax the arms, letting them fall loosely to the sides. Shake them gently.
This workout is most effective when paired with other ergonomic measures; each work station should be tailored to the employee and the kinds of tasks that will be completed there. Several ergonomic interventions specifically combat CTS:

  • Using a trackball or touchpad instead of a traditional mouse. Both of these devices require less force to operate, and often they can be programmed to perform different commands.

  • Adjusting the height of the keyboard and workstation to allow proper typing posture. This can be accomplished with an adjustable work surface, articulating keyboard tray or with desk risers.

  • Replacing a traditional keyboard with one that uses an alternative configuration, like a split keyboard. These allow the hands to remain in a more natural position.

  • Placing a wrist rest along the keyboard. A wrist rest provides extra support and encourages proper hand and wrist position. During typing breaks, the palms of the hands can rest there.
By preparing both the body and the workstation for repetitive tasks, preventing the occurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome is simple. Conditioning the muscles, along with applying ergonomic principles to every workstation, ensure that employees remain free of pain and injury.

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