Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, while a common condition, is one that will not go away on its own. In fact, the longer you wait to address the symptoms, the less likely you will respond positively to the treatments (1). As such, it is important to understand the potential risks that may lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome and the many ways that we can prevent the onset of the condition. From knowing which carpal tunnel foods to avoid, to practising methods on how to prevent carpal tunnel with simple stretches, the BodyMotion team has compiled some strategies that everyone can employ to minimise their risk.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Commonly associated with excessive computer use and office tasks, carpal tunnel syndrome affects anyone who performs repetitive movements using their hands and wrists. Located on the underside of the wrist, the carpal tunnel is made up of bones, tendons, and ligaments. The nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel can be put under repeated pressure from simple, everyday tasks which may inflame tendons, resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome (1). You may begin to feel like you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome when you experience symptoms like shock sensations in your fingers, weakness in your hand, difficulty manipulating objects, or the feeling of swollen fingers.
How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
As carpal tunnel syndrome is usually caused by repetitive or forceful wrist motion, several measures can be taken to help prevent the onset, or worsening, of symptoms.
Employ Gentler Movements to Avoid CTS
For many of us, as we go about our daily tasks, we are using more force than we need. Whether it is gripping something too tightly or typing roughly at a keyboard, it is important to reflect on the tension in your hands and evaluate whether the amount of pressure you use is necessary to complete your task. If possible, opt for softer movements to ease some of this pressure on your hands and wrists.
Take Regular Breaks
We often hear that time is money in the workplace, but it is also a great healer. Be sure to take a break from your work to stretch and flex your hand and wrist muscles. A short break of approximately 10 minutes every hour will make all the difference. If you engage in movements or tasks that require a lot of force, then this is a particularly important practise to adopt. Maximise this time and use these opportunities to snack on foods suggested to help avoid CTS with their anti-inflammatory properties, like berries, avocados or even a bit of dark chocolate (4).
Stretch, Stretch, Stretch
Whether on your break or at regular intervals throughout the day, try a variety of simple stretches to help keep your hands and wrists working optimally. From simple finger stretches to decompression exercises, there is considerable value in taking the time to rest and engage the muscles. There have even been cases where a workforce has become more productive from engaging in regular exercises to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, as the time lost to exercise helped towards workplace injury reduction (2). One of the recommended movements to help decrease pressure in the carpal tunnel involves beginning with the fingers extended, before bringing them down to make a hook fist and then returning to a straight hand. You must then make a full fist and again return to a straight hand (1).
Avoid Over Extension
As you work, try to avoid bending your wrist too far upwards or downwards, as this can place pressure on your median nerve. If you are already experiencing symptoms, a good way to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms from progressing is to wear a wrist brace to help with this.
Avoid Repetitive Movements
With everyday tasks like typing at a keyboard or handwriting, repeating the same motions over and over again can put a strain on your hand and wrist. To help prevent this from happening, try and alternate the hands that you use, or add some variety to your tasks to give your muscles a rest.
Maintain Good Posture
While the focus on preventing carpal tunnel syndrome is usually on the hands and wrists, the way you hold the rest of your body does play a role, too. Poor posture negatively impacts the muscles in your neck and shoulders, which then has a knock-on effect, impacting the nerves around them, which contribute to worsening wrist and hand problems.
When you feel cold, or are exposed to the cold, pain and stiffness intensify. By keeping yourself warm and applying heat to affected areas, you can help keep your wrists and hands warm and loose, too, lessening the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Maintain a Balanced Diet & Avoid Certain Foods
Highly processed foods have been linked with an increase in inflammation, which can make symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome worse. Some of the carpal tunnel foods to avoid include fried foods, refined sugars, foods with excess salt, and alcohol. To help avoid worsening carpal tunnel symptoms, include plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and foods high in vitamin B6 in your diet (4).
Adjust Your Workstation
Having a comfortable space in which to work will go a long way to helping you prevent carpal tunnel syndrome or manage symptoms that impact your day. Some simple alterations could include adjusting the position of your keyboard, so you do not need to bend your wrists while typing or mixing up your daily routine to avoid regular repetitive tasks.
Visit an Occupational Therapist
Our experienced team of therapists at BodyMotion Physio are primed to help show you exercises and stretches to strengthen your hand and wrist muscles, as well as help you reflect on your daily routine and lifestyle choices to better prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Learn more about our remedial massage and myotherapy options to discover the best fit for you.
Get In Touch with Our Team of Specialists Today
If you are looking for ways to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome or are seeking relief from the symptoms affecting your daily life, contact our team at Body Motion Physio to discover how you can keep your body functioning as it should. We will provide information and guidance about everything from the best ways to manage symptoms, which carpal tunnel foods to avoid and how to adopt preventative movements to your daily routine. Call (03) 9873 3333 to speak with one of our specialists about our various treatments and to book an appointment specific to your needs.
- Harvard Health Publishing (2014), Can You Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?, Accessed May 2022, https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/can-you-avoid-carpal-tunnel-syndrome
- Knight, J. (2020), How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Accessed May 2022, https://handandwristinstitute.com/prevent-carpal-tunnel-syndrome/
- Seradge H, Bear C, Bithell D. Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome and cumulative trauma disorder: effect of carpal tunnel decompression excercises: an Oklahoma experience. J Okla State Med Assoc. 2000 Apr;93(4):150-3. PMID: 10793505.
- Kubala, J. (2020), Foods to Eat or Avoid if You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Accessed May 2022, https://www.healthline.com/health/carpal-tunnel-foods-to-avoid#foods-to-eat