Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Habits and Exercises to Ease or Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome  showing hand parts that get affected

Fighting Against the Future of Failing Fingers

Many of us do it all the time- overworking our fingers, hands, and wrists to the point that we have "invented" a new illness among us frequent computer and other communication devices users. I'm referring to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). 

CTS is a "personal illness categorized under cumulative trauma disorder or repetitive motion trauma," and it is the "fastest growing occupational illness in the United States."

Source: Medicine.net

I'm in the Philippines, and with my country having the reputation of being one of the heaviest texters in the world (heaviest texter means we send the most text messages each day in the world; yeah, well, we like connecting to our loved ones, even when they're in the same house, or we're going to meet them the next day), I won't be surprised that, aside from being the "text capital of the world," we'll have pretty soon some of the most cases of young people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Not a good future world record at all.

Then again, with the widespread use of tabs, smartphones, and laptops, among many other devices where we use our hands, in many developed and developing countries, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome might be one of the next most extensive lifestyle diseases of the modern world. Again, not also a good future world record. 

Prevalence of CTS in Certain Industries

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome has been around for some time, wherein most of those who develop it are in the mail service, health care, construction, assembly line, and fabrication industries

Before, CTS afflicts mainly the manual labor industry, but now, it is spreading in the computer industry.

Many of us use our keyboards daily, whether for work, gaming, or other purposes, and we're at also at risk for developing CTS, though lifestyle, and other biological and environmental factors further increase CTS risks.

Symptoms of CTS: Weak in the Hands

Some of the common symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are "burning, prickling, and tingling within the wrist or first three fingers and thumb." Other symptoms are weakness in the hand and the tendency to drop objects because of numbness or weakness in pinching/grasping things.

Natural Ways to Prevent CTS

We can make changes in how we use our computer/devices to naturally prevent CTS. Let's make these changes our new habits from now on.

    1. Shaking or stretching the limbs.
    2. Leaning back in the chair.
    3. Squeezing the shoulder blades together.
    4. Taking deep breaths.
  • Practice hand exercises with every break, which are discussed below with pictures.
  • Observe good posture while sitting. I know some would say that good posture is natural, but bad habits can make us forget what good posture is. Here are some reminders on what "good posture" means:
    1. You should sit with your spine at the back of your chair with your shoulders relaxed.
    2. You should rest your elbows at the sides of your body when reading or watching something and with your wrists straight on your sides or lap.
    3. Your feet should be firmly on the floor or footrest.
    4. When typing, your typing materials should be at eye level, to prevent the neck from bending down when working.
    5. You should keep your neck flexible and the head upright to help maintain good circulation and nerve function for arms and hands.
Are You Sitting and Typing Wrong?

Here are some images to help us imagine how to sit and type properly. Basically, how to work (or play games, socialize et al.) without ruining our precious hands and backs (even our eyes and necks).

When Working on a Laptop
How to sit right in front of a laptop to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and for proper posture
Source: Daeco

When Working in Front of Computers

How to sit right in front of a computer  to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and for proper posture

You can print these images and put them in front of your PCs or where you usually use your devices. They are great reminders on how to sit and type right.

Treatment and Prevention Exercises for CTS

These exercises are from different health departments. All links lead to these websites where they came from. These exercises can prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome , but of course, not 100%, since many other factors can lead to it. At least, there's something we can do to continue our work and pleasures without increasing CTS risks.

These exercises can also treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome  because they can treat symptoms and reduce the further deterioration of our hands.

Still, do remember that you must consult your physician for further advice.

Some Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Exercises

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Exercises

The following are exercises copied verbatim from the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).

Wrist Exercises

Exercise 1

    1. Make a loose right fist, palm up, and use your left hand to press gently down against the clenched hand.
    2. Resist the force with the closed right hand for 5 seconds. Be sure to keep your wrist straight.
    3. Turn your right fist palm down, and press the knuckles against the left open palm for 5 seconds.
    4. Finally, turn your right palm so the thumb-side of the fist is up, and press down again for 5 seconds.
    5. Repeat with your left hand.
Exercise 2
    1. Hold one hand straight up shoulder-high with your fingers together and palm facing outward. (The position looks like a shoulder-high salute.)
    2. With the other hand, bend the hand you are exercising backward with the fingers still held together and hold for 5 seconds.
    3. Spread your fingers and thumb open while your hand is still bent back and hold for 5 seconds.
    4. Repeat five times with each hand.
Exercise 3 (Wrist Circle)
    1. Hold your second and third fingers up, and close the others.
    2. Draw five clockwise circles in the air with the two fingertips.
    3. Draw five more counterclockwise circles.
    4. Repeat with your other hand.
Fingers and Hand Exercises

Exercise 1
    1. Clench the fingers of one hand into a tight fist.
    2. Release, fanning out your fingers.
    3. Do this five times. Repeat with the other hand.
Exercise 2
    1. To exercise your thumb, bend it against the palm beneath the little finger, and hold for 5 seconds.
    2. Spread the fingers apart, palm up, and hold for 5 seconds.
    3. Repeat five to 10 times with each hand.
Exercise 3
    1. Gently pull your thumb out and back and hold for 5 seconds.
    2. Repeat five to 10 times with each hand.
No Time for Hand Exercises?

And if you think these exercises are too much of a trouble, think again. Perhaps this image of standard surgery procedures for treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome will change your mind. Ouch! I can almost feel that knife slicing into my wrist... 

Surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Patients Prevent through Right Exercises

Make Time and Save Your Hands

These exercises and changes in habits are simple and easy to do. They just need to be done and we're already doing something actively to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Have you felt any numbness in your hands lately? What do you when your hands feel tired?