For those that spend much of their workday behind a desk or in front of a computer screen, Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD) can be a real medical risk. CTDs such as tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome occur in situations where an individual does the same repetitive work over time, causing strain on their wrists and hands.
The computer workspace is a perfect place for carpal tunnel syndrome to show up. Risks are high if you hold one main position throughout the day, such as hands typing on a keyboard or resting on a mouse. If the position you are using is not a neutral position and the hand is bent in some way, this can further aggravate the situation. Finally, putting pressure on nerves or tendons can lead to these CTDs, like when the wrist is resting at the keyboard.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis are similar, and usually result in pain in the hand, arm, and wrist. Sometimes numbness and tingling will accompany the pain, but in general a sufferer will feel discomfort in their hand or arm.
So what can you do? Instead of thinking about looking for a new career, there are some simple ways to help prevent CTDs or lessen their pain:
Maintain a healthy body and weight. Obesity can put additional strain on a body, especially in the arms, but a healthy individual will be more able to heal from minor stresses and injuries. Along with this is the need to keep your muscles strong and in working order. Muscles that are used for working out will be able to handle stress and strain. To keep fit, maintain a regular workout regime, or incorporate stretching into your daily schedule.
Keep your hands, arms, and wrists in a natural position. Instead of twisting the wrist, keep it straight, and support your arm on a hard surface. Look into ergonomic computer accessories that aid in proper positioning. Keyboards, mice, and desks have all been designed to maintain comfortable positioning. Changing positions and posture regularly will also help by spreading out which muscles are being used.
Tell your boss you need a break. By incorporating smaller, more frequent breaks into the workday, your muscles will have a chance to recuperate, and the stress on joints and tendons will be interrupted. Try 10 minute breaks every 75 minutes or so, and use that time to gently stretch the arm and wrist.
Even though they might be more of a problem in offices today, most CTDs are preventable or even curable if the right steps are taken to fix them. Be aware of pain or tingling in the arms or hands, especially if your job entails repetitive muscle movement. Be sure to seek the advice of your physician or a physical medicine specialist if you have concerns.