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How To Avoid Carpal Tunnel

by Lyndon Langley
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How To Avoid Carpal Tunnel

How To Avoid Carpal Tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that affects one out of every three people, and it’s estimated that more than 50 million Americans suffer from some type of upper extremity problem each year [Source: CDC]. It occurs when pressure builds up within the carpel tunnel at the wrist, causing pain and other complications. More specifically, it happens because of swelling around the median nerve (which runs through the carpal tunnel) caused by inflammation of tendons surrounding the tunnel as well as compression due to excess fat deposits. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway located deep underneath the palm side of our hands. The median nerve controls all of the muscles in our forearm and half of those in our fingers. As such, carpal tunnel can cause numbness, tingling, burning, weakness, and even paralysis in our hands. Additionally, the symptoms may be exacerbated if we’re experiencing high blood sugar levels, diabetes, hypoglycemia, obesity, pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, kidney disease, liver diseases, heart failure, and so much more. So how do you avoid getting this potentially debilitating ailment?
The first step is to identify risk factors for developing carpal tunnel. Some of these include the following:
Repetitive hand motions – Typists and computer users are susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome because they perform the same actions over and over again. These repetitive motions are not only bad for your body but also lead to chronic stress, which puts undue pressure on the nerves found in the carpal tunnel. In fact, prolonged use of computers has been linked to tendonitis, joint problems, muscle cramps, fatigue, and many other issues.
Frequent lifting – Lifting heavy objects repeatedly places great strain on your back and shoulders. This can eventually put excessive pressure on your wrists, forearms, elbows, and neck. If you frequently lift something weighing more than five pounds, consider using a cart or dolly instead.
Prolonged standing – Prolonged standing can place extra strain on your legs and feet. Try alternating between sitting down and standing up throughout the day.
Poor posture – Poor posture can put unnecessary stress on your spine, neck, and shoulders. Slouching forward with rounded backs increases the force exerted on your lower back and can exacerbate spinal conditions, which can later lead to carpal tunnel.
Excess weight – Being overweight or obese adds additional pressure and stress on your joints, especially your knees and hips. Excess weight can also aggravate carpal tunnel because it causes increased bending and compressing forces on the ligaments surrounding the carpal tunnel.
Some simple tips to help keep the odds of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome low include:
Wear proper fitting shoes- Shoe sizes vary according to gender, foot size, activity level, and shoe style. When choosing a pair of shoes, make sure the fit is comfortable without any rubbing or pinching anywhere on the foot. Also, try wearing different pairs of shoes during the day to ensure that your feet don’t get too hot or cold.
Avoid repetitive motion- Repetitive motion includes everything from typing to driving. Pay close attention to what types of activities you engage in daily and look for ways to incorporate breaks into them. You could try taking frequent walks or stretching exercises to relieve tension.
Keep wrists straight- Wrist alignment plays a key role in keeping carpal tunnel away. Make sure your wrists are kept straight and never bend in front of your palms. Even slight bends can greatly increase pressure and pain within the carpal tunnel. A good habit to cultivate is to take note of where your wrists are bent at any given time and see whether there’s room for improvement. If you notice that your wrists need to be bent, then do so consciously and regularly.
Use lighter weights- Using light weights instead of heavier ones will save you from putting added strain on your joints. Be mindful of the amount of weight you’re carrying and always go easy on yourself.
Take the stairs- When going upstairs, always walk slowly and carefully, keeping your head up and looking ahead. Don’t hunch over or swing arms freely. Use the railing or grab onto the banister when necessary. Take the outside stairway whenever possible.
Sleep properly- Improper sleep patterns have been shown to contribute to carpal tunnel. Sleep peacefully by curbing caffeine intake before bedtime and making sure you sleep enough hours per night.
If you think you might have carpal tunnel, consult your doctor immediately! He or she can diagnose the problem easily via an examination. In addition, your physician can recommend treatments including steroid injections, physical therapy, braces, splints, surgery, and medication.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the most effective treatment to prevent CTS is to rest the affected area. Taking aspirin, elevating the involved limb, and applying ice packs should also provide relief. For severe cases, surgical intervention may be needed to relieve pressure on the median nerve. However, patients should discuss their options thoroughly with their doctors prior to undergoing any procedure.

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