Your employees make the biggest difference, which is why protecting their health is the number one priority of any business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ergonomic disorders are the fastest growing work-related injury and accounts for “56 percent of illnesses reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” And carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common ergonomic injury.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) generally affects people after performing years of repetitive related tasks such as computer work, machining, video games, etc. Carpal tunnel is a painful condition in the hand and wrist. It occurs when there is too much pressure on the median nerve at the wrist. The median nerve runs from your forearm to the palm of your hand. This nerve gives you feeling in your thumb and all your fingers except your pinky. When the median nerve goes through your wrist, it passes through a narrow path – the carpal tunnel – that’s made of bone and ligament.
If you get any swelling in your wrist, this tunnel gets squeezed and pinches your median nerve, which causes your symptoms such as numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in your hand and up your forearm. It is estimated that roughly 500,000 people undergo surgery every year to treat carpal tunnel.
There isn’t currently a proven way to prevent carpal tunnel but there are things you can do to reduce the amount of pressure you put on your hands and wrists. Below are tips for at home and on the job.
7 Tips for Carpal Tunnel Relief and Risk Reduction
- Loosen your grip and force when you’re working with your hands. Chances are when you write you hold the pen or pencil too tight or when you type you push the keys too hard.
- Take frequent breaks. Also, stretch your hands, fingers, and wrists often—rotating them in circles and flexing and extending your palms and fingers.
- Try to avoid doing the same hand and wrist motion over and over again. For example, if you have a task that you always do with your right hand, do it with your left hand instead. Or mix up your tasks as much as you can to give your muscles a break.
- Keep your hands and wrists warm. It sounds simple but it makes a difference. Pain and stiffness get worse when you’re cold. Even gloves with no fingers can be helpful because they keep your hands and wrists warm and loose.
- Improve your posture. Incorrect posture rolls shoulders forward, shortening your neck and shoulder muscles and compressing nerves in your neck. This can affect your wrists, fingers, and hands.
- Avoid sleeping in positions that cause your wrists to bend or curl.
- Strengthen your muscles. Weak muscles may lead to a poor wrist or arm position. Exercises will make your hand and arm muscles stronger. This can help you keep a better position.
Responding to a Workplace Injury
For all non-emergency work injuries, the injured employee should contact their supervisor. Society policyholders can then call the 24/7 nurse triage hotline for recommendations from a registered nurse before treatment is pursued.
When it comes to risk management, prevention is essential. Our Risk Control Department works directly with Society policy holders to identify and evaluate dangers that could result in financial loss or injury. Visit our Risk Control Library for handouts and useful resources to help facilitate your safety and health efforts or consult with a Society agent in your area.