You probably don't pause to think about your carpal tunnel—unless, of course, you're experiencing the signs of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a painful condition characterized by burning, aching, and stiffness in the hands and wrists, and sometimes flashes of pain that shoot all the way up the arm.
We tend to think of CTS as an office worker's malady, but sitting at a computer isn't the only reason people develop it: Experts think it's usually based on a combination of factors, such as heredity, fluid retention, or conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. (Make 2016 YOUR year! Order Prevention's calendar and get daily inspiration to live your best life.)
The good news is, you can often keep painful symptoms at bay by following the tips below.
1. Give your wrists a break.
While you're walking to the water cooler or the bathroom, give your hands some TLC: Gently bend each hand upward and down from the wrist, holding the stretch for a few minutes in each direction. Then bend and flex your fingers, too.
2. Use less force.
Newsflash: you don't need to pound that computer keyboard or hold your pen in a death grip for it to work properly. A light touch will help your hands relax.
3. Work on your posture.
Slumping forward in your chair can put pressure on your wrists and hands. Here are four dos and don'ts of proper desk posture from Gregory Thielman, PT, an associate professor of physical therapy at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia:
Do: Keep your feet flat on the floor and your eyes are level with your computer monitor. If you have a tall chair and desk, use a footrest to keep your feet resting flat.
Do: Make sure your chair supports the curve in your lower back and your shoulder blades, says Thielman.
Do: Take regular breaks to walk around the office for 60 seconds—standing improves posture. Do this at least 5 times over the workday.
Don't: Keep your legs extended or crossed for long periods. To minimize stress on your joints, Thielman recommends you keep ankles, knees, and hips at 90-degree angles.
4. Keep your hands warm.
Being in a chilly room makes your hands stiff, which can lead to soreness. If you can't adjust the temperature, try putting on a pair of fingerless gloves—you might feel silly at first, but your hands will thank you later.
5. Take up yoga.
Any form of strength-building exercise is great for your joints, and yoga in particular has been found to reduce pain and keep your wrists flexible. Try these pain-relieving yoga poses to increase your mobility.