Sore, painful hands while typing away at work? Most of us have heard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It usually affects people over 30 who do repetitive work with their hands or wrists. It causes pain and tingling of the hands and first 3 ½ fingers, usually sparing the pinky.
This occurs because there is a large nerve that travels down the forearm into the front of the hand under a fibrous “bridge” on the front of the wrist. This bridge can become inflamed. When it does, it puts pressure on the nerve travelling under the “tunnel”. This leads to pain and tingling of the hand and the fingers that are connected to that nerve.
But did you know that a whole new generation is developing carpal tunnel syndrome and other hand and wrist ailments? In fact, anyone with a handheld device or gaming system is at risk!
Technology is now literally at our fingertips. All day long, we are at our laptops, our cell phones, and our iPad. Kids have their own “cell phones”, and let’s face it; cell phones are no longer just that; they are gaming systems that require fine finger, hand and wrist movement. Then there are the “real” gaming systems – x-box, Wii, you name it.
So, we ask a lot of our hands, and they do a great job. But sometimes, they let us know that they need a little TLC. What can we do to avoid injuries?
Tip #1: Give it a rest
Be sure to take breaks from typing, surfing the web, or playing games. Use the timer on your device until you develop a “take-a-break” habit. For the kids, be sure to set time limits.
Tip #2: Change positions or activities
If you must work on projects for prolonged periods of time, alternate devices or aspects of the project. Do what you can to change the way in which your hands/wrists are moving
Tip #3: Take a holiday
Take a 1 or 2 day hand holiday. I know it sounds impossible… just use the phone if you can. Consider it Dr.’s orders!
Tip #4: Ice, ice, ice
If you have already developed symptoms, apply ice over a washcloth or in an ice pack over the inner wrist up to 4 times a day. This will decrease the inflammation that is causing compression of the nerves in the wrist
Tip #5: Anti-inflammatories
Ibuprofen helps with the inflammation. Everyone’s health situation is different, but if it is ok with your Doctor, takes it according to the package directions. If you can’t take Ibuprofen, ask your Doctor if you can take Acetaminophen.
Tip #6: Wrist splints
You wear these at night while you sleep. They keep you from flexing your wrists and compressing the nerves through the night. They are made specifically for carpal tunnel syndrome and readily available in chain drug stores and grocery stores. For adults only. If you have this degree of symptoms, you should talk to a physician about your particular circumstances.
Not everything is carpal tunnel syndrome. There are many other injuries of the tendons and ligaments that can occur from overuse of the wrists, hands and fingers. If these simple measures do not help, you should seek evaluation.