Carpal tunnel syndrome currently affects approximately 2.7 percent of the U.S. population.
With the increase in the popularity of technology — and an uptick in the number of people working on a computer or in office jobs — chances are that more people are going to be diagnosed in the coming years.
Most people have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, but they don't realize that, in many cases, it can be prevented. One of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of developing this condition is to make sure you're avoiding certain habits and behaviors.
Read on to learn about some common habits and mistakes you might be making that could cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
This is a condition that some people develop when their median nerve becomes compressed.
The median nerve runs through the length of the arm and the carpal tunnel, which is located in the wrist. The nerve typically becomes compressed because the carpal tunnel swells and narrows.
Common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include:
These symptoms can extend from the hand and fingers up to the upper arm and shoulder.
In severe cases, some people also experience weakened grip strength, slowed nerve impulses, and a loss of coordination.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Risk Factors
Some people are at a greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome than others, including the following individuals:
People born with smaller-than-average carpal tunnels
People who have previously sprained or fractured their wrists or hands
People who have rheumatoid arthritis
People who have hypothyroidism
People with overactive pituitary glands
Women who are pregnant or going through menopause and experiencing increased fluid retention
People who have a family history of carpal tunnel syndrome
Mistakes that Might Cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Some people might be more prone than others to developing carpal tunnel syndrome. But, everyone can minimize their risk by making sure they're changing certain aspects of their lifestyle.
There are a few mistakes you might be making that could increase your carpal tunnel syndrome risk, including the following:
Spending too much time on tech devices (cell phones, tablets, computers, etc.)
Using a keyboard and mouse that don't align properly with your wrists and arms
Failing to take breaks during the workday to rest and stretch your hands and wrists
Gripping tools too tightly or using too much force when you're typing on your phone or computer keyboard
Holding tension in your hands (clenching your fists) throughout the day
Positioning your keyboard incorrectly
Using a regular mouse that forces your hand into an unnatural position
Using a straight keyboard instead of a more ergonomic split or jointed one
How to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As you can see, there are a lot of things you could be doing — without even realizing it — that increase your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you're making any of these mistakes and are noticing early symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, it's important to take steps to address the problem. There are many treatment options you can try, including:
Wearing a splint: Splints provide wrist stabilization by holding your wrist in a straight position. They can also help reduce water retention. Splints are especially helpful to wear at night to avoid accidentally compressing your wrist while you sleep.
Activity changes: Start taking breaks during the workday and address your workspace to make sure you're not putting unnecessary strain on your wrists and hands.
Temporary diuretics: Temporary diuretic use can help reduce water retention and swelling that causes carpal tunnel syndrome.
Pain medications: You can use over-the-counter pain medications to achieve pain and inflammation relief while you work on more long-term solutions.
Steroid injections: For severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, steroid injections can help minimize inflammation and pain.
Physical therapy: Some people can see great benefit from working with a physical therapist to learn proper movement patterns and techniques to reduce pain and inflammation in the hands and wrists.
Surgery: For people with very severe carpal tunnel syndrome (symptoms that persist for six months or longer), surgery to enlarge the carpal tunnel can provide relief.