Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Category: Gadgets

About ten years ago, when I worked as a programmer at IBM, my wrists began to get very sore and painful. Every night I had to come home and ice them down to ease the pain and swelling. The doctor said it was Carpal Tunnel, and I would need drugs, therapy and perhaps surgery to treat it. But I had another plan in mind…

What is Carpal Tunnel?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the result of a compressed nerve at the wrist. This nerve, called the median nerve, delivers sensations to the thumb and all fingers except the pinkie. The Carpal Tunnel is actually the passageway of bones and ligaments of the wrist where the median nerve passes through. When this nerve is compressed, it may result in numbing sensations or even pain. It can be debilitating, depending on the severity of the compression.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may include pain, tingling, and numbness. Some people experience a lack of grip strength, or a burning sensation in the area of the wrist and hand. People with severe cases may experience the inability to sense hot and cold, and may loose muscle in the thumb.

Why Does Carpal Tunnel Happen?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be the result of long periods of time with your wrist and arm being compressed or positioned in the same way. It could also be the result of an injury occurring at the same location. Sleeping with your wrists flexed, using a mouse and keyboard without rest, or falling and landing on your wrists might result in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Repeatedly doing the same thing, over and over, and without rest, can result in injury to the wrist and hand in many various other ways, but one of the most serious is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Women are known to be more susceptible to this injury than men, though it might be because the arms and the nerves are smaller. The workers at biggest risk are assembly line workers who do repeated tasks over and over, typists and data entry personnel. If you spend a lot of time at a computer you should take steps to avoid this injury.

This potentially debilitating injury can be avoided. Those who work in an environment that requires long periods of using a cash register or computer, picking up and putting down a telephone, or anything that causes repeated strain on the forearms and wrists should be careful to take plenty of breaks. Five minutes every half hour can save you from a lot of pain later on. All it takes is a little time to flex and then relax the muscles in your wrists.

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Treatment, if caught early on, includes a lot of rest. Doctors recommend up to two weeks of relaxing the wrist before getting back to work. You should see a doctor immediately when you feel symptoms, as severe cases might require surgery. Some surgical procedures can help, but it is used a last resort. You also want to make sure that diabetes or arthritis isn't playing a factor, and to treat those first if they are. Several types of drugs are often given for patients who catch it early, which will help decrease swelling and reduce pain. Exercise and alternative methods of treatment, like acupuncture and massage therapy, has also been recommended.

microsoft natural ergonomic keyboard 4000 You may remember that in the beginning of this article, my doctor prescribed drugs, therapy and surgery to treat my carpal tunnel. That was unacceptable to me, so I immediately bought one of those ergonomic keyboards that are split or angled so your hands rest more naturally on the keys. It took a week or so to get used to it, but my symptoms disappeared almost completely! On a standard keyboard, you are forced to rotate your wrists outward, which puts more pressure on the carpal tunnel area. The cushioned palm rest and the special shape of the ergonomic keyboard helps you position your wrist and fingers to minimize that pressure and repetitive stress.

perific ergonomic mouse It's been more than ten years, and I only have trouble when I use a regular keyboard, or do something stupid like swinging a sledge hammer. The keyboard I use now is the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. The Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 is another design with a curved key layout. It's similar to the Ergo 4000, but doesn't have all the ergonomic features. You might find it easier to get used to, though, since the keys are positioned more like a traditional keyboard. An ergonomic mouse, such as Perific's Wireless Dual Mouse can help too. Use of these devices can be a big help, but don't depend on them alone. Instead, continue to take breaks and relax when you can.

More information about Carpal Tunnel symptoms and treatments can be found at these sites:

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Most recent comments on "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome"

Posted by:

09 Apr 2007

I'm on the computer for 7+ hours a day and what I do is place my mouse on a 2 inch thick book which is black so I use it as a mouse pad..this keeps my forearm and wrist/hand level. At any rate I have never had a carpal tunnel problem..either I'm just lucky or I am doing something right.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2007

I'm a sign language interpreter and have Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI), which is the precursor to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I agree that keyboards are important, as well as ergonomics with the wrist; however, I have found that the trapezium muscles also are a big factor. A gadget that I found that gives me arm and shoulder support is a forearm rest. These gadgets are made in different configurations, but essentially the support attaches to your desk edge like a vise, had articulated sections that let the gadget move as you move your arm, a 'C' shaped cup where your forearm rests, and some have a detachable mouse rest. I found that I don't contract my traps trying to keep my arm/wrist in place while using the mouse.

I found my first forearm rest at a retail store and found the 2nd on the internet. Best $110 I ever spent!

Posted by:

VM Goble
26 Apr 2007

I am a firm believer in this type of keyboard and having been using one for years. I converted before I had any carpal tunnel symptoms and have remained symptom-free.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to find one of these keyboards with the number 6 key on the right side (the "correct" placement if you're a touch typist). I tried one with the 6 on the left for several months. The result was I could no longer remember where any of the numbers were, and it never got better. It just doesn't work to type three numbers with one finger. Not for me, anyway.

I eventually managed to find two of these keyboards (one for work and one for home) with the 6 on the right, and I won't give them up. I keep them through every computer upgrade. I dread the time they wear out and I have to try to find more.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2007

My husband bought that keyboard for my office computer when I started to avoid using the computer because it was so painful. After reading more about carpal tunnel I put a box under my desk for my feet and adjusted my chair to correct my posture when sitting at the keyboard. The keyboard and box remind me to sit up straight. The pain disappeared before my scheduled doctor appointment.

Posted by:

Brian Fahey
26 Apr 2007

The vitamin B-6 in 50mg dose every day will go a long way to relieving the problem. Also helps with arthritis and calcification in the joints of the fingers. I was taught an odd but very effective way to relieve the muscle tension. Go to a Physical Therapist for instruction. It works on the immediate problem and does help in the long run. It requires extending the arm and hand, tensioning the muscles in the arm, twisting the arm, and then applying pressure from the opposite hand on the thumb.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2007

I solved my carpal tunnel problems by switching my ordinary mouse to one by Evoluent. It puts the hand in an entirely different position. I got it about two years ago, and my symptoms disappeared. I'm very happy with it. Just google Evoluent--and you'll be directed to the company.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2007

I agree with brenda's comment, although I found an easier solution: I just bought an office chair with an adjustable armrest, and made sure that it was adjusted at the same level as the surface on which I run my mouse. This way, my entire arm rests on it as I work. Never a pain again!!!

Posted by:

27 Apr 2007

At the first sign of repetitive motion troubles, in both my right wrist and elbow, I purchased one of those ergonomic keyboards which I hope will be replaceable when it wears out. It has the 6 in the wrong position, but I live with that, because I don't do many numbers there, using, instead the keypad. One thing this keyboard has that I like is a touch pad. That eliminates the constant reaching for the mouse. I place the keyboard on one of those lap pillows designed to hold laptops, and use an elevated gel wrist support under my right wrist, and that supports my whole arm most of the time. The important thing to remember, for those of us with this problem, is to keep the knees, the hips, and the elbows at right angles, which, in many cases means either lowering the chair or providing a foot rest. Anyway, this latest combination has worked for me for several years.

Posted by:

27 Apr 2007

Another possibility for mousing that doesn't seem to have the same impact on the hand and wrist is a graphics tablet. They take a little getting used to, but because you're holding a pen rather than resting the weight of your hand or arm on a mouse, they do seem to help. My RSI problems haven't come back since I got my first graphics tablet about four years ago...

Posted by:

27 Apr 2007

I've had a theory for years, about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I've used computers since the first TRS-80 about 30 years ago. Back in those days, I spent my evenings and all of my weekends on the computer. Since retiring 14 years ago, all my time has been spent on the computer. If anyone is a candidate for Carpal Tunnel, it would be me, but I've never had a trace of it.

For all this time on the computer, I've never learned proper touch typing. I type Hunt and Peck. In touch typing, the wrists are always slightly bent and always in the same position. I type with my wrists straight and move my arms as needed. I think the reason for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is simply holding the wrists rigidly in the same position.

Posted by:

27 Apr 2007

A GREAT, configurable, freeware program to remind you to take breaks is Workrave. It will also guide you through some exercises. Check it out at -- I have really been talking this one up!

Posted by:

15 May 2007

My physio looked at my work station and said "No wonder". I had the mouse on the edge of the desk and my forearm completely unsupported. He changed it by pushing everything back on the desk so that I have my whole forearm resting on the desk when using the mouse. He explained that doing this makes you use your big shoulder muscles for the mouse, not the wrist. I was in agony until I tried it (3 years ago), but I haven't had any pain since.

Posted by:

Alan Wheatley
11 Aug 2007

I came to the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome article by way of a keyword search on this site. (I've been with the Tourbus e-mail list a few years now.) My particular interest trigger here was Bob's mention of laptop computing as 'green computing', coupled with someone else's observation that his experience of wrist problems was exacerbated by use of a laptop.

My own touch-typing training was in 1980, and the Windows adjustable keyboard has helped lessen my experience of wrist injury rather than increase it. (I used to tense my wrists too much on the manual office typewriter, and yet experienced electric typewriter keyboards as almost totally uncontrollable. No such problems with Windows adjustable keyboards.)

Maybe an important reason for my not having wrist problems with conventional desktop keyboard or mouse is that -- like the 9 April correspondent -- I have my elbows lower than my wrists?

Posted by:

18 Sep 2008

I am a Chiropractor and treat loads of patients with carpal tunnel in Scranton, Pa. That article has some basic info on carpal tunnel and why you might want to consider Chiropractic, however not all Chiropractors specialize in CTS. Also, try a few exercises, stretch your arm out, palm down, grab the knuckles of the outstretched hand with the other hand and pull them down, stretching the forearms muscles gently. Then do the opposite, pull the fingers back. Sometimes CTS is directly related to tight forearm muscles! Give it a try.

Posted by:

John Zenian
28 Jul 2010

Computer keyboard and mouse use can cause pain in the wrist. However, the forces involved in such activities are not great enough to cause injury to the median nerve which is the prerequisite for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Often the pain in carpal tunnel syndrome becomes dormant and then becomes activated by stressful situations such as typing or being bent for a long period during sleep; hence the morning pain reported by carpal tunnel syndrome patients.

I believe the true cause of carpal tunnel is the repetitve bending of the wrists during sexual intercourse. Such repetitive bending is the most traumatic form of repetitive motion involving the wrists because it causes them to become hyperextended while bearing the weight of the upper body.

Making changes in posture during sexual intercourse to minimize the use of the wrists will prevent carpal tunnel syndrome in those who don't have it. They include placing the hands in a more forward position relative to the upper body, using other joints such as the elbows or knuckle joints(closed fist), placing the arms on a high level instead of the floor or the mattress and changing positions during intercourse. For those who already have carpal tunnel syndrome additional therapeutic measures will be necessary.

Posted by:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
16 Mar 2013

Yoga's success in combating carpal tunnel symptoms should be good news for sufferers and employers alike.

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