While it is commonplace for desk employees to sit in the same hunched position all day while demanding incessant micromovements from their fingers, it’s important to remember that these actions are anything but natural for the body. Hence why repetitive strain injury (RSI), including the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome, is a very real threat for office workers.
Thankfully, these types of musculoskeletal trauma are known to advance gradually, typically presenting with a slight tingling, aching, numbness, or a shooting pain which can shoot up the back, arms, and neck.
If you manage to catch these symptoms early and take quick action, then you may swiftly sidestep the problem altogether. Here are 10 of the most useful suggestions to get you started.
1. Do Not Ignore the Pain
Any discomfort is your body’s way of sending you a direct message. If you choose to neglect these minute warnings, they will only grow louder until you no longer have a choice in the matter.
Commit yourself to the suggestions on this list, do additional research on your specific ailments, and speak to management if you’re worried that your working environment may be to blame.
2. Your Posture
A flawed posture is often cited as RSI’s greatest catalyst, and it’s easy to understand why. If you’re a sloucher, then your spine is forever being held captive at a very unnatural angle and this can negatively affect literally every other part of your body.
Get into the habit of sitting up straight with your feet flat on the floor and your forearms resting at a 90-degree angle.
3. Your Monitor
To keep your chin up and save your neck from any awkward bends, ensure that the top of your screen is always in line with your eyes.
On a side note, don’t forget to look away from your computer every 20 minutes or so and focus on something else in the distance. This is because healthy eye habits are important too.
4. Your Mouse and Keyboard
Is everything around you easy to reach? If not, you are probably straining yourself and should take a moment to reevaluate your set up.
Furthermore, why not consider purchasing some ergonomic equipment too? For example a vertical mouse, a split keyboard, or wrist support mouse pads.
5. Stretch Your Hands
Set an alarm as a regular reminder to stretch out your digits, as this will bend your ligaments in less repetitive manners while promoting overall flexibility. There are plenty of exercises to research, but some of the classics include wrist rotations, pushing your hands together in the prayer position, and stretching your arms out with interlaced fingers.
However, if any of these movements cause you pain, then stop immediately and visit your doctor.
6. Take a Break
Another smart use for a routine alarm system is to remind yourself to take a walk every hour or so. Your blood circulation will improve, your posture will realign itself, and these movements will prevent any joint stiffness.
Use this time to get a glass of water for extra health points. However, if none of this is helping, then you may need to take some actual time off work.
7. Wear a Brace
Sometimes a simple restriction of movement will minimize the strain by preventing any abnormal wrist positioning. Especially when you’re sleeping, a brace can hold your arm in a neutral alignment and take the pressure off of the nerves.
That said, it is still worth investigating whether a carpal tunnel brace relieves pain when you’re typing too.
8. Your Overall Health
Whether you’re overweight or undernourished, any lack of physical fitness can negatively influence all aspects of your well-being. It’s important to introduce some form of cardio into your life, which includes walking, running, cycling, or swimming.
Other health-related angles to look into would be a sufficient amount of sleep, ample hydration, and plenty of magnesium in your diet (leafy greens, nuts, legumes etc).
9. Trial and Error
There are various alternative methods which many RSI sufferers have reported success with, and it’s up to you to find out what works best for your current circumstances.
Experiment with submerging your hands in ice to reduce inflammation, wear specifically designed gloves to provide mild compression, and cautiously query about anti-inflammatory painkillers for temporary relief.
10. Visit Your Doctor
If nothing seems to be working, then don’t push it and rather speak to someone who can advise you down the exact path for your situation.
Perhaps it will be a simple fix or perhaps your problem is a different condition entirely, but it’s always worth finding out for peace of mind and to avoid any permanent damage.