How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel

10 Tips to Prevent Carpal Tunnel at the Workplace

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Introduction

Living in the digital era means we often find ourselves glued to our desks, tapping away on keyboards, and mastering the art of mouse-clicking, which can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). This common condition can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and wrists. Fortunately, there are proactive measures you can take to prevent carpal tunnel at your workplace!

💡 Did you know?

Carpal tunnel syndrome ranks among the prevalent hand-related conditions, stemming from the compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel located in the wrist. This prevalent nerve disorder impacts a substantial number of Americans, ranging from four to 10 million individuals.

Source: Mayo Clinic / The Healthy

1. Maintain Proper Ergonomics

Make sure your workspace is ergonomically sound with a quality desk and ergonomic office chair. To prevent carpal tunnel, position your keyboard and mouse at a height that allows your wrists to remain straight. Plus, your computer monitor should sit at eye level to reduce strain on your neck. 

2. Take Regular Breaks

Avoid long periods of engaging in repetitive movements, such as frantic typing. Yes, you might be on a roll, but do take short breaks every 30 minutes to stretch and flex your hands, wrists, and fingers. This helps improve circulation and reduces the strain on your median nerve. Daniel Curtis, an orthopedic physical therapist with Orlando Health in Florida, recommends setting a phone timer to remind yourself to take a wrist break or switch to a different activity for a bit. 

3. Do Wrist Exercises

Incorporate simple exercises into your daily routine to strengthen your wrists and improve flexibility. Rotate your wrists clockwise and counterclockwise, and perform gentle wrist flexor and extensor stretches.

4. Type like a Pro to Prevent Carpal Tunnel

Pay attention to your typing technique to prevent carpal tunnel

Pay attention to your typing technique. Use a light touch on the keyboard and avoid excessive force. Keep your wrists in a neutral position rather than bending them up or down.

5. Invest in Ergonomic Tools

Consider using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse designed to reduce strain on your hands and wrists. These tools are often designed with a natural hand position in mind, minimizing the risk of CTS.

Try an ergonomic mouse in an upright position (see image), which supports your hand in a neutral posture that does not twist your forearm.

6. Maintain a Proper Posture

Incorrect posture may result from adapting your body to accommodate a computer screen, rather than properly adjusting the screen's height and distance to maintain a correct posture. Poor posture involves hunching the shoulders forward, shortening the neck and shoulder muscles, and compressing nerves in the neck, potentially leading to neck pain and discomfort in the hands and arms, according to the Mayo Clinic.


Instead, sit up straight in a neutral posture with the shoulder blades drawn onto the back. Also, make sure to keep your wrists in a neutral position when working. Avoid excessive bending or extending of the wrist, as this can increase pressure on the median nerve.


Invest in an ergonomic office chair designed to encourage a healthy sitting posture at your desk. These chairs feature assets such as a posture-correcting backrest with lumbar support, a supportive headrest, an ergonomic seat, good armrests and/or various other health-boosting functionalities.

7. Try Supportive Wrist Rests

Use wrist rests to support your wrists during breaks. These can help maintain a neutral wrist position and reduce the strain on your median nerve.


According to Ergo Plus, wrist rests can exacerbate discomfort when not used properly. So make sure that the pad contacts the heel or palm of your hand as opposed to your wrist. Also, only use them in conjunction with an ergonomically coordinated computer workstation.


Keep in mind that "wrist rests [are] designed to be used when resting, and their use should be minimized when actively keying," as per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

8. Keep Your Workspace Clutter-Free

Eliminate unnecessary items from your workspace to create a comfortable and efficient environment. This reduces the need for awkward hand positions and unnecessary reaching. 


To create a streamlined space, get a standing desk with integrated cable management and drawers for storage, or consider a sit-stand option with space-saving extras such as headphone hooks, cup holders, and a monitor riser.

9. Stay Hydrated

Proper hydration is essential for maintaining joint health. Drinking enough water helps keep the tendons and tissues in your hands and wrists supple, reducing the risk of inflammation and compression on the median nerve. Harvard Health recommends about 15.5 cups of plain water a day for men and about 11.5 cups for women to stay properly hydrated.

10. Consult a Professional

If you experience pain or discomfort that won’t get better with these measures, consult with a healthcare professional, such as a neurologist or orthopedic hand specialist. Early intervention can prevent the progression of carpal tunnel syndrome and help you manage symptoms effectively. 

The 3 Stages of Carpal Tunnel:

• Phase 1: Occasional symptoms that manifest during specific activities or when waking in the morning.

• Phase 2: Persistent symptoms that fluctuate throughout the day, accompanied by pain so intense that it might disrupt sleep.

• Phase 3: Ongoing symptoms, coupled with weakness or reduction in muscle mass — specifically in the thumb.


Source: Cedars-Sinai

The Bottom Line

By incorporating these practices into your daily routine, you can create a workspace that promotes hand and wrist health to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Remember, being proactive is key, and making small adjustments can have a significant impact on your overall well-being.


Please note: This blog is intended for informational purposes. It is important to always consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance.

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