Have you ever had tight, achy fingers or hands after a long day of hard work? This can happen after doing construction work and holding hand tools all day, moving heavy boxes, squeezing a pencil to write, or even using your fingers to click a mouse and type on a keyboard every day. Most people use their hands every day, yet don’t consider their risk for developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome until they already have pain or symptoms.
What is it?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is considered an inflammatory disorder caused by repetitive stress, physical injury, or a medical condition. People can experience re-occurring pain or dull ache in the wrist and forearm, weakness in the hand, and tingling or numb fingers. This injury is considered chronic and can take months or years to develop. Over time, the Carpal Canal/Tunnel starts to narrow and restrict the nerve there due to inflammation and friction. This causes the strange nerve type symptoms and pain that goes with the Syndrome.
Muscle tension and joint misalignment can cause inflammation. So it makes sense to do all we can to prevent this inflammation from happening in the first place. By doing simple stretches throughout your day, you can decrease the tension in your hands that can lead to inflammation. Many people have no pain in their hands or fingers and do not realize how tight they are. Without being aware of this inflexibility and tension, inflammation can sneak in. In most cases, the tension is built up over years and years and the symptoms don’t appear until middle age. But prevention is worth a pound of cure! Here are some tips and stretches to do while you are at your desk to keep your hands young and pain free.
1. Work on your Posture. Did you know that the position of your wrist is affected by your spine and shoulder girdle strength? Good spinal posture actually makes a difference on your hands! Try not to let your shoulders round forward when you are at the desk, and shift your face back away from the screen to align your earlobes with your shoulders.
2. Elbows Down. Keep your elbows pointed down towards the floor when you are typing or double clicking. This helps keep your shoulders in a good position.
3. Finger Stretches With your palm up, take each individual finger (but not the thumb) and pull it back away from your palm. Now flip your palm down towards the floor and repeat with each finger to stretch the back of the hand and wrist. Take 1-2 mins to do both hands, 1-3x a day.
4. Thumb Stretch If you only have time for one stretch, do this one. The thumb is at highest risk for arthritis, so it’s even more important to stretch this finger. Make your hand into the hitchhiker position. Wrap your other hand around your thumb and pull back on the base of your thumb to give it a stretch. Don’t let your wrist move. Try pulling your thumb into different angles for whatever feels best. Hold 1 minute each hand, 3x a day or more.
5. Self Massage (not pictured) Pinch the web of skin between your index finger and thumb. This is a great place to massage. Explore other sore areas of your hand and work your way up your forearm. Massage helps blood flow into muscles that are not going through their full range of motion. Do this once a day if you can.
6. Hand and Wrist Stretch. Start with your palms facing the ceiling. Now put your fingertips on the edge or surface of your desk and continue to push your palms away from you. Keep your elbows bent towards the floor. Another way to do this is with your palm pointed towards the floor like in the second picture. You should begin to feel a stretch in your fingers, palms, insides of your wrists and forearms. 30-60 seconds, 3x a day.