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Computers and Carpal Tunnel

Friday, January 25th, 2008 by | Filed Under: Uncategorized

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of stories about people getting carpal tunnel from typing too much with their computer keyboard. Is there any truth in that? Can you please clear this up for me?

Oh, that’s a wonderful question! I’ve been asked this in the past, but I never really got around to discussing it, so I’m glad you brought it up again. This is something every computer user should be aware of, and since all of you reading this newsletter are computer users, I urge you to pay attention. In this article, I will go over what exactly carpal tunnel is, what some of the symptoms are and how all of you could be affected by it. Let’s get started!

First of all, I’m sure there are some of you out there asking, “What is carpal tunnel?” Well, it’s technically called the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and it is basically the result of a compressed nerve in the wrist area. The affected nerve is called the median nerve and it is in charge of delivering sensations to the thumb and all of the other fingers, minus the pinky. The term carpal tunnel actually comes from the passageway of bones and ligaments in the wrist that the median nerve goes through. If the median nerve is compressed, it could result in numbness and different levels of pain.

A lot of different symptoms surround the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, including pain, numbness and tingling. Some people even suffer from lack of strength in their grip and burning sensations in the wrist and hand areas. Severe cases of the syndrome also include the inability to sense hot and cold, as well as, loose muscle.

So, now that you know all the symptoms, I’m guessing you want to know how carpal tunnel happens, right? Well, it can happen for various reasons. The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can start to flare up when your wrist or arm has been compressed or has been in the same position for a long period of time. It could be caused by sleeping with your wrists flexed all night, using a mouse or keyboard for too long without taking a break or it can even be caused by falling and landing on your wrists the wrong way. Keeping your wrists in the same position without rest can definitely cause carpal tunnel.

Studies show that women are more likely to have carpal tunnel than men, mostly because their arms and nerves are smaller. It’s also said that certain occupations carry a big risk for this type of injury. Some of those include assembly line workers, typists or anything that requires you to do the same task over and over again. As you can see, using your computer for an extended amount of time without rest can be troublesome. If you fall into that category, you can take steps to avoid the carpal tunnel injury. For example, you should take plenty of breaks. If you just take five minutes out of every half hour to flex your wrists and relax your muscles, you’ll be much better off in the end. Doing that can really save you from some pain later on.

If you feel any of the above symptoms, you’ll want to consult your doctor right away. Your doctor will probably start out with a treatment plan of rest for approximately two weeks. They will want you to relax your wrist muscles before you go back to work. If you don’t do that, your case could become severe and it could require surgery. Of course, surgery is used as a last resort, but you should do all you can beforehand to make sure it doesn’t come to that. Certain drugs, acupuncture and massage therapy have also been used in treatment plans. You should also ensure that arthritis isn’t causing your pain and if it is, be sure to treat that first.

Now, if you fear carpal tunnel because you use your computer on a regular basis, there are some things you can do to combat it. First, try switching to an ergonomic keyboard. They are split and angled so that your fingers rest more naturally on the keys. On a standard keyboard, you have to twist your wrists outward, which puts more strain on your carpal tunnel area. An ergonomic keyboard helps you position your wrists for a more comfortable feel, which minimizes the pressure.

There are ergonomic mice you can use as well and you can find those and the keyboards at any regular computer store.
Of course, you shouldn’t depend on those devices alone to cure your carpal tunnel, but they can be a big help. And like I said before, be sure to take breaks often and give your hands a rest. Feel free to relax, my friends!

~ Erin

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