Top 5 Ways to Avoid Wrist Pain At Work
Repetitive strain injuries such as carpel tunnel syndrome are common in the workplace. Wrist pain is usually the first warning sign that something is wrong.
But not all wrist pain is alike. There can be several possible causes of wrist pain, regardless of the diagnosis.
Common Causes of Wrist Pain:
1. Poor posture while working at a desk
If you slouch or jut your chin forward while sitting at a desk, this will decrease blood flow to the arms and negatively affect the wrist and hand muscles that are generally being overworked. Strengthening the mid-back muscles and stretching the hamstring muscles and the chest muscles will help improve sitting posture. The exercise routine in Pain Free At Work specifically targets the muscles involved in sitting with good posture.
2. Cervical Dysfunction (Neck Problems)
Lack of blood flow from the neck caused by old injuries (car accidents, sports injury etc…), arthritis, muscle spasms, disc problems or poor neck position while working will negatively affect the structures (tendons, muscles, nerves) within the wrist.
3. Shoulder or Elbow Dysfunction
A lack of active range of motion in a shoulder or elbow will prevent proper blood flow to the wrists and will often cause injury provoking movement compensations in the wrist or hand.
4. Poor ergonomic set up of your workstation
Having your wrist too bent while typing strains the wrist. Computer monitor placement is also important because, if your neck is chronically turned (versus looking straight ahead), then you can create a restriction at the neck joints, which impedes blood flow to the arm and wrist.
5. Lack of rest breaks
Like any muscle, the wrist muscles have a limit to their endurance. If you push past that limit by not allowing the muscles to rest and recuperate then you run the risk of injuring the muscle (example: tendonitis, strains). Taking rest breaks during the workday have been show to decrease the risk of injury. Can you imagine what would happen if you didn’t rest your leg muscles after using them for 8 hours a day? You would expect injuries right?
6. Tight Finger Flexors or Wrist Flexors
Finger flexors are the muscles that allow you to bend your fingers – as in while you are typing. The wrist flexors bend the wrist .The tendons of these muscles pass by the carpel tunnel and can put increased pressure on the area if they are too tight. And, of course, the writ and finger muscles get tight with a lot of computer work.
7. A Ganglion Cyst
8. Genetically small carpel tunnel
9. Arthritis or other causes of inflammation in the wrist area, such as pregnancy
Top Ways to Avoid Wrist Pain
1. Don't Raise the Back of Your Keyboard
Some keyboards have little legs on the back so you can raise the end up. People will sometimes use this option so they have a better view of the keys. NEVER do this. Raising the back of your keyboard causes you to extend your wrists. You always want your wrist to be in a neutral position (straight).
2. Don't Call It A Wrist Rest
Your wrist rest isn’t for resting your wrist on. I know…it is strange that they call them wrist rest. You shouldn’t rest the wrist while you are typing – the wrists should float above the keyboard (like playing a piano). When it comes time to rest your arms, place your palms on the "wrist rests" to avoid pressure on the carpal tunnel.
3. Drink Lots of Water
I am not trying to tell you that water will cure your wrist pain. But if you drink a lot of it at work, you will have to take a break from the computer and walk to the restroom. It is called a repetitive strain injury because you are repeating the same movement over and over again. You need to take regular breaks. Just stopping to take a sip of water can be a beneficial change of pace for your muscles. The stroll to the bathroom is even better to rest the hands and wrists. In addition, take mini breaks (30 second breaks every 30 minutes) while at your computer. You should also periodically change the type of task you are doing. For example, if you have been typing up a document for 2 hours, switch to filing or a phone call before finishing the document. The change in muscle activity from typing to an alternate job task will help give your wrists a needed break. Chances are, the break will also help you mentally as well – you will be more productive when you sit back down to tackle the document.
I am a big fan of computer rest break programs. These great downloadable gadgets remind you to take a break from the computer. This can be invaluable when you are concentrating on a work task and will, inevitable, forget to spot and take care of yourself.
4. Take a Typing class
A couple of years ago I saw a patient for chronic wrist pain. She had been diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome and was trying to avoid surgery. As she was an editor and spent most of her day working on a computer, I asked if I could watch her at work. Eureka! She had never learned to type properly and, although she was fast (super fast), she had to look down at the keys while she typed and only used four fingers (two on each hand). There was a time oh so long ago when typewriters were going the way of the dinosaur, but computers were not yet popular. Because of this time of limbo let’s call it, very few people learned how to type correctly. So now, in the age of technology, we are seeing lots of people who have taught themselves how to type. This was my patient. She was fast and accurate on a keyboard, but her technique was causing havoc to her body. I recommended she have an MRI of her neck despite the fact that she did not have any neck pain and sure enough, she had a major herniation of one of her cervical discs. Looking down at the keys (because she didn’t really know how to type otherwise) had caused that.
We worked on her neck injury, got her to learn how to type properly and the wrist pain cleared up.
5. Stretch Your Neck and Wrist Muscles
During your work breaks, stretching is a great thing to do. Your body is not designed to sit in the same position for hours at a time. Stretching allows you to move your joints through their full range of motion, which restores optimal blood flow and stimulates synovial fluid movement within the joint (think lubrication). Remember that the neck is the area where blood and nerves flow down into the arm. So for wrist or hand pain, the neck is often the origin of the problem. Not only should you be stretching the neck to maintain proper vascular flow down the arms, but I would recommend a regular massage – at least of the neck – for the same purpose
Whether your wrist pain symptoms are rooted in the neck or are coming directly from the wrist, it is also helpful to stretch and massage the muscles that flex and extend the wrist. There is a self –massage technique of the wrist muscles that I go over in the Pain Free At Work DVD.