We live in a society where we are exposed to computers at least once a day, spending anywhere from an hour to several hours in front of one. Your hands are constantly typing or operating the mouse to navigate your computer or the Internet. So the question becomes… does repetitive computer usage increase your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome?
The most obvious answer you may be thinking is, “well of course it does!”. The good news is that research suggests otherwise. A study was done on people who heavily used the computer, specifically the keyboard, everyday for at least 6-7 hours a day. The study contained a sample of 250 people where only 9 of them actually had carpal tunnel. The studies concluded that heavy computer usage is not correlated with an increased risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Does this mean I’m safe?
Not necessarily. You may not develop carpal tunnel syndrome specifically, but it’s certainly possible that repetitive mouse and keyboard usage will result in some strain to your hands. 30% of the 250 people who were studied reported that they felt numbness or pins-and-needles in their hands; however, these same people did not meet the criteria to be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Is there anything I can do to improve my hands and wrists during computer usage?
Of course there is! Simple changes go a long way. You can place a rolled up towel in front of your keyboard to rest your hands on while you type. This will allow your fingers to perform most of the work. You can even find comfortable keyboard wrist supports online in different variations.
It also helps to have strengthened wrists. This can be done using a wrist grip for only a couple minutes a day. If you do not have a wrist grip, then a low weight dumbbell works too. Simply hold the dumbbell in your hand, keep your hand flat and use only your fingers to move it up and down. All it takes is a few minutes a day.
It’s the repetition of movement that will catch up to you. Take frequent small breaks throughout the day to let your wrists relax. Get up, walk around, and stretch for a bit.
Look into different mice options. Some mice are not as rough on your wrists and require little to no finger movement. A great example is a trackball mouse, which essentially require only your fingers to move the cursor around.
Ultimately, the best defense to carpal tunnel syndrome and wrist pain is to avoid computers altogether.