Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a devastating disorder that is one of many disorders listed under the general term, “Repetitive Strain Injury” (RSI).
Of all the known repetitive strain injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome is the most recognized and prevalent among the general populace. And due to this recognition, many people are concerned about being afflicted with carpal tunnel and its debilitating symptoms, a concern that should be on the minds of anyone that is involved in work or recreational activities that require extensive use of the hands, especially in static motions such as “gripping” and / or repetitive motions like typing, clicking a computer mouse, assembly, etc.
Below is a list of the symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome and a list of steps that can be taken to help prevent this terrible and destructive disorder that has reached pandemic proportions.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms:
· Tightness, discomfort, stiffness or pain on the front side of the hands / wrists.
· Tingling, numbness and / or paresthesia (Pins & needles) affecting the thumb, index, middle and one-half of the ring finger. The thumb and fingers do not have to be affected simultaneously as symptoms will often vary and move around. (Example: The thumb and index finger may be numb one day and the next day the numbness and tingling in the thumb and middle finger are more noticeable.) If you have symptoms in the rings or little finger, this is NOT Carpal Tunnel Syndrome!
· Loss of strength in the fingers / hands. (Grip Strength)
· Pain, aching, swelling, and diminished coordination and dexterity.
· A need to stretch and / or massage hands, wrists and arms.
· Assuming a defensive posture in order to protect sensitive hands / wrists.
Because carpal tunnel syndrome and its symptoms are something that everyone should be aware of in this day and age of computers, video games, personal assistant devices and other “technological advances”, it is important to take the necessary steps in order to prevent carpal tunnel from developing in the first place.
By implementing the following steps, you can greatly reduce your risk of getting carpal tunnel syndrome as well as stave off many other repetitive strain injuries that are caused in the exact same way as carpal tunnel, such as Guyon's Syndrome, Trigger Finger and Tendonitis of the hands and wrists.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Prevention Protocol:
· Task Variation: It is wise to vary tasks throughout the day in order to keep the force and duration of the specific motion to a minimum. If a typical workday involves 5 types of activities; instead of doing task # 1 for 1.5 hours and then moving on to task # 2 for 1.5 hours, etc., it is best if task # 1 can be performed for 30-minutes and then task # 2 is performed for # 30 minutes, and so on, repeating tasks # 1-5 every 30 minutes until they are completed. If this is not possible for the type of work that is required, ask the employer health director to implement a task rotation schedule where workers perform a different type of task every 1-2 hours throughout the day, making sure that each task is different enough that it does not tax the same muscle group (s) in the same manner as the previous task or the next task. It is still important that in these 1-2 hour shifts, mini-breaks are taken for 2-3 minutes every 30 minutes. Implementing task variation is a very successful tool in keeping productivity high and repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome to a minimum.
· Task Requirement Limitation: The 'task requirement limitation' protocol sets a limit on the duration and force of a given job or task, making sure that workers are only required to perform a certain number of repetitive movements or a certain amount of force over a specified period of time before a break is required. Implementing a mini break for every 30 minutes of work activity is very important in order to prevent muscle hypertonicity and fatigue from setting in, the main causes of carpal tunnel syndrome.
· Ergonomic Systems: Ergonomic systems and tools are important in helping to reduce the amount of stress and strain that is inferred upon the body, but ergonomic systems and tools by themselves can not prevent or “cure” injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
· Mini-Breaks: It is very important to implement short breaks every 30 minutes of work activity in order to reduce stress and strain to the fingers, hands, wrists and forearms. These breaks only have to last 2-3 minutes, but are key in preventing the muscles to relax, which helps to prevent a muscle imbalance from occurring and developing into carpal tunnel syndrome. Even more important in carpal tunnel syndrome prevention, is implementing the following activities into these mini-breaks.
– Stretch: Stretch the short, restrictive muscles in order to lengthen them, which, reduces pressure on the under muscles, blood vessels and nerves. (Example: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Stretch the muscles on the front of the forearm that flex the fingers, hand / wrist.)
– Exercise: Strengthen the weak, underdeveloped muscles in order to help shorten / tighten them. Performing strengthening exercises to the muscle groups opposition to those that are short and tight allows the muscles on both sides of the joint to return to a more natural, balanced position. The strong, short muscles are lengthened and the weak, long muscles are shortened, creating equality and stability around the entire joint. (Example: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Strengthen the muscles on the back of the forearm that extend the fingers, hand / wrist to keep the muscles balanced.)
NOTE: Of all the ideas listed, the ones that are most important in preventing and eliminating repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome are mini-breaks, stretches and exercises.
By simply being aware and implementing a few simple techniques at work, individuals can prevent repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome from occurring and experience many years of good health without ever being affected.