How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel: A Complete Guide

how to prevent carpal tunnel

Anyone who works with their hands, whether in an office or on a production floor, has probably felt those shocks of pain shoot through their wrists. These pains are no fun, and more than likely they are caused by carpal tunnel syndrome.If you have ever wondered how to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, read this article to get a comprehensive look at the problem and find surefire ways to help prevent and ease this pain.

What Is Carpal Tunnel?

Before we talk about how to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, we first need to know what it is. The carpal tunnel is actually a narrow path in our wrists made up of bones, ligaments, and tendons. There is a nerve, called the median nerve, that passes through this tunnel. Any swelling in these ligaments or tendons will cause the carpal tunnel to shrink and compress the median nerve. 

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) usually happens gradually, as continual repetitive use of the wrists will cause damage and swelling. The symptoms associated with CTS are numbness or tingling in the hand, and sometimes it feels like an electric shock between the thumb and fingers (mostly the index and middle finger). Sufferers can also feel an unusual and tingly pain moving from their wrists up their arm towards the elbow. In most cases, this sensation is on the thumb side of their arm.

Who Is At Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

The risk for carpal tunnel syndrome is far reaching. If you were born with a smaller carpal tunnel, then you are more likely to have issues. Females suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome more than males. As we age our chances of contracting carpal tunnel syndrome increase because of the wear and tear we’ve put on our bodies over the years.

Also, some health conditions can make you more susceptible. Rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism makes you more likely to have symptoms. Most all of us use our wrists heavily throughout the day, but those who work specifically with their hands like heavy laborers, musicians, or office workers see the syndrome more often than other types of workers.

Carpal Tunnel Prevention

Carpal Tunnel syndrome is an epidemic that continues to grow amongst American workers. Virtually every profession is affected in some way. Any time a worker performs repetitive or strenuous movements with their wrists, they are at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome and the painful and debilitating symptoms that follow. As you will see from the research and statistics below, there is a dire need for carpal tunnel syndrome prevention.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 32.8% of repetitive motion job injuries lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. This syndrome is vast in its reach and affects over eight million Americans annually. In 2010, The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that over five million workers reported problems with carpal tunnel syndrome that year.

How to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

While heredity and other factors like pregnancy or some diseases make it near impossible to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome for many people, there are some practices you can adopt to lessen your chances of suffering from this condition. An overall healthy lifestyle will help prevent CTS, or at least minimize the painful symptoms.

Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking are some daily practices you can adopt to help prevent CTS. Obesity, which is often caused by overeating and lack of exercise, will slow down the nervous system and make you more susceptible to the syndrome. Smoking interferes with blood flow, which can also lead to CTS. Practicing better posture will help keep your wrists in good shape. If you slump over, this makes the muscles in your neck and shoulders shorten, which puts more pressure on your arms and wrists.

Daily Habits to Keep CTS Away

Other daily practices can help you prevent CTS. Make sure when you sleep that you aren’t bending your wrists. If needed, you can purchase an over-the-counter brace to help keep your wrists straight at night. Keep your muscles, especially those in your wrists and hands, warm. Warm muscles are more flexible and get better blood flow. Also, concentrate on loosening your grip when performing any tasks with your wrists. Pay attention to how tightly you grip keys and even a pen.

If you work in a position that would make you more susceptible to CTS, make sure you take frequent breaks. It is recommended that you take a stretching break at least once an hour during your work day. If your job requires you to perform the same movements each day, switch it up by trying to use your other hand or work from another position. 

One of the most important practices you can adopt is frequent stretches. The following stretches are our favorite for helping to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome:

Steeple Hands Stretch

This is a great stretch you can do anytime you feel your wrists are getting tight or sore. With relaxed and bent elbows, hold both hands out in front of you with your palms facing each other. Touch each finger and your thumb with the same finger on the other hand. Push your hands together until all fingers and your palms are touching each other.

Then slowly roll your palms back out away from each other while leaving the tips of your fingers together. This will look almost like you are holding a hamburger. Repeat this movement between five and ten times, or until your hands and fingers feel warmed up and stretched. This is a nice stretch you can do sitting at your desk without disturbing your office mates. Try this exercise as many as a few times an hour if needed.

Stretch Them Out

If you are continuously typing on a keyboard, or your work requires you to repeat the same movements with your wrists each day, it’s important to take time, at least once an hour, to stretch out your wrists. One way to do this is by holding out one arm straight in front of you with your wrist relaxed. With the other hand, gently pull your relaxed hand towards you until you feel a stretch in your wrist. Repeat with the other hand.

Another way to stretch out your wrists is to take each wrist and circle it around. Circle each wrist clockwise for three revolutions and then repeat the stretch moving in the opposite direction. This is a quick and simple stretch that you can do while sitting at your desk, and you can repeat it as many times as needed throughout your work day.

Shake Them Out

This is another simple activity you can do periodically while working. Place both hands out in front of you with your elbows bent and your wrists relaxed. Shake your hands back and forth quickly, as if you just washed your hands and you’re trying to fling the water off of them. 


Now that you know how to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, you will be healthier and feel great. The better you feel, the more productive you will be in your job and daily life.   

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