Your hands are essential to your career. However, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can take away your hands’ dexterity, tactile sensitivity, and overall strength. CTS can be a career-ender, but specific measures can prevent it from cutting yours short.
What CTS Does
Carpal tunnel syndrome is the compression of the median nerves on the palm-side wrists of your hands. Median nerves are responsible for transmitting tactile sensations from your hands to your brain. Once compressed, you might notice a little swelling on your wrists. CTS causes your hands to lose strength, especially around your thumbs. You can experience tingling sensations or even extreme pain, depending on the extent of the compression. Numbness also sets in and along with the loss of tactile feedback; you lose the ability to make elegant and precise hand movements. Pain caused by advanced CTS can affect your whole arm with pain similar to being pricked by needles. Eventually, you’ll lose the ability even to close your hand or hold a small object.
Are You at Risk?
Bent wrists while performing repetitive tasks put you at risk of developing CTS. Hairstylists are at risk because of the constant cutting motions and irregular angles and wrist positions when cutting hair. Individuals who perform excellent detailed work (painting, circuitry, fine assembly, etc.) are also at risk from CTS. Constant use of keyboards can also give rise to CTS, especially when using angled keyboards with raised back ends. The bent wrists of guitarists and violinists as they play their instruments put their wrists at enormous stress and fatigue, which can lead to swelling. On the other hand, pianists — even with their constant playing — are less likely to develop CTS because they usually keep their wrists straight. Other factors that can increase your vulnerability to CTS include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
Bent wrists are more of a factor than repetitive motion when it comes to straining your median nerves. Swivel scissors can allow stylists to cut hair without bending their wrists and flat ergonomic keyboards can take the pressure off your wrists when using the computer. Just being aware of your wrist position and consciously correcting it can do wonders to alleviate wrist strain. If bending your wrists is unavoidable, try to take 5-minute breaks every couple of hours. Give your tendons time to cool down and maybe do a bit of stretching. If you are beginning to experience tingling sensations, you might need to wear wrist splints at night to keep your wrists straight as you sleep. Aspirin can somewhat reduce the swelling in your wrists, but you need actual rest to reverse the damage done by CTS. There are surgical procedures for CTS, but it can take months for you to regain full use of your hands.
Prevention is a lot better than cure, especially with CTS. Practice proper posture, keep your wrists straight and get enough rests between breaks. These simple measures will keep your hands working correctly, allowing you to work for as long as you want.