Before most Americans acquired numerous labor-savings devices, we used a lot of physical labor in our daily tasks. Work didn’t necessarily involve regular, beneficial exercise, but it certainly made for a more active life than we have today.
Modern inventions make our lives more pleasurable—and rob us of the natural, regular exercise we need to stay healthy. One of today’s most widespread technological inventions, the computer, has brought about a condition never even heard of a few years ago. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, practically an epidemic in the 1990’s, has caused worker’s compensation claims to climb substantially.
At certain points in the body, nerves run through confined spaces where they can become severely pinched if surrounding tissues become swollen. A major nerve especially subject to this kind of damage carries signals between the brain and the hand. As it travels through the wrists, this nerve passes through a tunnel formed by the wrist bones (known as the carpals), and a tough membrane on the underside of the wrist that covers the tendons. The tunnel is rigid, so swollen tissues within it press on and pinch the nerve, leading to the painful condition known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
This disorder can be brought on by repeated flexion of the wrist or alternatively gripping movements with the wrist held extended. Constant use of computer keyboards or typing is a prime cause. CTS may also occur after prolonged use of the wrist by arthritic patients who use a walking stick. A number of conditions, including, among others, rheumatoid arthritis, pregnancy and various metabolic diseases, can lead to this disorder.
CTS symptoms include tingling and intermittent numbness of part of the hand, which are often accompanied by pains shooting up the arm from the wrist. If severe, the condition can result in permanent numbness and weakness of the thumb and one or more fingers.
Sitting posture is one of the most overlooked factors in CTS. Sitting posture 1, shown below, is correct. Figs. 2, 3 and 4 all show a “postural depression” with the approximation of the thorax to the pelvis. 2: Upright slumped posture. 3: Anterior slumped posture. 4: Posterior (reclined) slumped posture.
If you work at a computer or typewriter, a good ergonomic position is vital in preventing this common disorder. Avoid staying in one position for any length of time—even a stretching routine of less than 60 seconds can help avoid problems that may lead to CTS.
Simple stretching and relaxation exercises, such as wrist tendon and elbow stretches, help to prevent cumulative trauma disorders.