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If your carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by repetitive strain, then you'll need to make some lifestyle changes.

General Guidelines

Check Your Sleeping Position

A simple change in how your wrists are positioned during sleep may solve early symptoms. Sleep with your wrists cocked upward instead of bent downward to minimize pressure in the carpal tunnel.

Check the Ergonomics of Your Workplace

Your workplace should be comfortable and your work activity should conform to the way your body works. To reduce the chance of discomfort or reduced performance:

  • Minimize repetitive hand movements when possible.
  • Alternate between activities or tasks to reduce the strain on your body.
  • When using your wrists, keep them straight and let your arms and shoulders share the stress.
  • Use your whole hand or both hands to pick up an item.
  • Avoid holding an object the same way for a long time.
  • If you work in an office, adjust your desk, chair, and keyboard so you are in the best possible position:
    • Back straight
    • Feet flat on the floor or resting on a footrest
    • Knees level with or slightly lower than your hips
    • Shoulders in a neutral position, not forward or back
    • Elbows bent at a 90 degree angle
    • Forearms parallel to the floor and wrists straight
  • Take breaks at least once an hour to:
    • Rest or shake your hands.
    • Massage the palms and backs of your hands.
    • Do a few stretches and loosening movements of the shoulders and arms before beginning work. Do them often during the day.
  • Keep hands warm, with gloves if necessary.

Check the Tools You Use at Work

  • Avoid holding an object or tool the same way for a long time.
  • Minimize time using vibrating tools. If this is not possible, then take frequent breaks and do the warm-up program listed below.
  • Use gloves that dampen vibration.

Warm Up Before and During Work

According to a report published by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a simple warm-up routine may reduce the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome. This routine, combined with medication and rest, may prove to be better at treating symptoms than rest and medication.

The warm-up routine is as follows:

  1. Hold your hands in front of you as if pushing on a wall. Count to five.
  2. Relax your wrists and fingers.
  3. Make tight fists with both hands.
  4. Bend both fists downward. Count to five.
  5. Repeat each step ten times.
  6. Shake your arms loosely while hanging at your side.

Avoid Caffeine and Tobacco

Both caffeine and tobacco reduce blood flow to your hands. Nerve tissue is the most sensitive to reduced blood flow. Avoid caffeine and tobacco so that you don’t decrease blood flow to these areas.

When to Contact Your Doctor

Contact your doctor when your symptoms begin to interfere with your activities.

References:

Carpal tunnel syndrome. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00005 . Updated December 2009. Accessed August 21, 2013.

Carpal tunnel syndrome. American Society for Surgery of the Hand website. Available at: http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/CarpalTunnelSyndrome.aspx . Published 2011. Accessed August 21, 2013.

Carpal tunnel syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated August 6, 2013. Accessed August 21, 2013.

Carpal tunnel syndrome fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/carpal_tunnel/detail_carpal_tunnel.htm . Updated June 18, 2013. Accessed August 21, 2013.



Last reviewed September 2013 by Teresa Briedwell, DPT, OCS

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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