With work-from-home mandates continuing on at most workplaces, typing away at your laptop for long hours (sans an ergonomic set-up) can leave your arms, back and neck prone to pain and damage. Sounds familiar? Putting pressure on the wrist while typing, when exacerbated by postural issues, can lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a painful issue that might put you out of commission for longer than you’d like. We spoke to Dr Rakesh Nair, consultant knee replacement surgeon at Zen Multi Speciality Hospital and Dr Girish L Bhalerao, specialty consultant of orthopaedic and spine surgery at Wockhardt Hospital, for their take.
What does carpal tunnel syndrome feel like?
“While working on a computer, your hand is at a 45 degree angle. The constant hammering against the wrist can affect the nerve underneath, causing numbness or pain,” says Dr Nair. The nerve passes under a band of tissues, which form a cushioned panel there to protect the nerves and the wrist.
The symptoms of CTS mimic those related to other back and shoulder issues. “Early symptoms include a burning, tingling and itching numbness in your palm, thumb index and middle finger. You may feel weakness in the hands, have trouble holding things, and find writing uncomfortable. Acute cases present a shock-like feeling that moves into your fingers and travels from the neck below. The same symptoms can progress further into your forearm, arm, and the entire length of the median nerve can feel a tingling sensation,” says Dr Bhalerao. If this is not treated in time, muscle cramping is common. As it gets worse you will have less grip strength, more pain and muscle cramping. Slower nerve impulse mean less feeling in the fingers and affects motor and sensory functions. “Typing needs fast movement in fingers. Over time, the impulses become slower if you have CTS,” he says.
The lack of a proper set-up could mean that one is prone to slouch a lot and stress the upper back, neck and wrist, and have drooping shoulders with the neck tilted towards the computer. This median nerve runs along the length of the arm and goes through passage and ends in hand, controlling the movement and feeling of thumbs, index, ring and middle finger. “These fingers are the powerhouse of the hand and do all the work and require power and fine motor tuning,” he confirms.
Here’s what you can do to prevent and treat CTS symptoms
“First get a baseline blood report of calcium, Vitamin D and B 12, so there is no chance of over supplementation, and the deficiency does not aggravate other syndromes,” says Dr Naik. “Hormonal problems can also cause swelling of the wrists too. These issues need to be addressed before you start any protocol.” Keep a stress ball close to you and take a break exercise your wrist with it often. “The shoulder muscle is the main muscle, followed by the elbows and wrists. So other joints don’t give you support if you haven’t worked on these core muscles and all your weight is on the small wrist joint,” he confirms.
“With permanent muscle damage, the hand becomes hardened and fibrosis sets in. Some people also have a tendency to clenched fingers which can cause it. Keep hands warm and rest your rest on a gel-cushioned mouse pad. Don’t grip anything too tight and do not hyperflex your wrist,” says Dr Bhalerao. To strengthen your wrists, Dr Naik suggests simple regular hand stretches and weight training with light dumbbells. “Weight-bearing exercises such as dips, pull-ups and push-ups will aggravate the condition as you put your entire bodyweight on the wrist. So strengthen the forearm and wrists with dumbbells,” he shares.
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