Woman stretching her wrists and fingers

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a relatively common condition that affects one or both of your hands. While it might be tempting to diagnose it and treat it at home, you must have an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment protocol to reduce your risk of needing surgical correction or experiencing permanent injury.

Specialist Dr. David Galpern could guide you on the best prevention strategies to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. However, these will make much more sense when you understand the syndrome and how it develops.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Your hand and wrist are a highly complex combination of bone, tendon, ligament, muscle, and nerve, giving you good mobility and functionality. However, the complexity also lends itself to several common conditions that can become chronic.

One of these conditions is carpal tunnel syndrome. Inside your wrist is a narrow, rigid tube made from ligament and bone called the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is located at the base of the hand. The median nerve passes through this tunnel as it moves through the wrist and into the palm.

The median nerve provides feeling and sensation to the thumb, index, and middle fingers, as well as part of the ring finger. It also controls some of the small muscles at the base of the thumb. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve is pressed or squeezed within the tunnel. This results in symptoms of numbness or tingling in the fingers that typically begin at night and become evident during daytime hours.

The nerve issues may also make it feel like your fingers are swollen and cold. As the symptoms worsen, they impact tasks that require bringing your fingers and thumb together. Because the muscles in the thumb are also affected, picking things up or grabbing small objects can become difficult. When you notice these symptoms, reach out to hand specialist Dr. Galpern immediately to get help preventing carpal tunnel symptoms from worsening.

How Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Develop?

Several medical and environmental factors can increase your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Understanding these triggers helps you to recognize the activities that may increase your risk so you can help prevent carpal tunnel from developing further.

Environmental factors that can increase your risk include:

  • Opening jars
  • Chopping food
  • Typing in a poor ergonomic position
  • Repeated use of vibrating machinery
  • Any trauma or injury to the wrist, such as a sprain or fracture

Medical conditions can also increase your risk due to increased swelling and inflammation throughout the body, such as diabetes or other metabolic disorders, fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Tips and Strategies to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

You can take several steps to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. These same steps can also be used if you have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, as they can reduce the stress on the wrist.

Individuals who are at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome are those who work at a computer, in assembly lines, in construction and carpentry, or play musical instruments. Athletes who routinely cycle, play racquet sports, weight lift, do gymnastics, golf, or bowl are also at a higher risk.

Proper Workstation

When you sit at a desk and work for 8 to 10 hours daily, your workstation must be ergonomically adjusted for your height and function. Your monitor should be at eye level to help avoid tilting your head or straining your neck. The keyboard on your computer should be at elbow height, which allows your wrists to remain in a neutral position.

Ask your employer about an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, which places your hand in a natural position and reduces the stress on the carpal tunnel. Pay close attention to how you use your hands while typing or using tools. They should remain straight without chronically being flexed or hyperextended. Adjust your chair height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are at 90 degrees. Use a chair with armrests, which helps support your arms and reduces strain on your shoulders during the day.

Work Habits

Developing healthy work habits protects your wrists from carpal tunnel syndrome and helps reduce inflammation in other areas of your body. Take short breaks every 20 to 30 minutes to move your hands and wrists, stretch your body, and move around a little.

Avoid doing the same task for lengthy periods. Try alternating tasks, even on the keyboard. For example, alternate between entering numbers and using the mouse. Develop proper keyboard techniques, such as typing lightly and avoiding pounding on the keys. Hold anything in your hand loosely, such as a mouse, pen, or pointer. Use your whole hand to perform the function rather than just your fingers.

Exercises and Stretches

When you work with a physical therapist or Dr. David Galpern at Comprehensive Hand Surgery Center, you will learn some of the wrist, hand, and finger stretches that can help retain your flexibility and reduce inflammation in your hand and wrist.

Lifestyle Modifications

Carpal tunnel syndrome is more prevalent in individuals who carry excess weight, are inactive, and sleep with their wrists flexed or extended. Excess weight can reduce the size of the carpal tunnel, and inactivity can make your muscles and joints stiff and weak. Consider sleeping in wrist splints at night so your wrists stay in a neutral position and not curled under your chin.

Learn More About Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is painful and can become debilitating when it is not diagnosed and treated appropriately. Highly trained specialist Dr. Galpern could evaluate your symptoms and accurately diagnose them.

We encourage you to call our office today and schedule a consultation to learn more about preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Comprehensive Hand Surgery
Phone(804) 506-3050
2819 North Parham Road Richmond Suite 100, VA 23294 Get Directions