Carpal tunnel prevention starts in wrist

When the wrists are incorrectly positioned at a keyboard, pressure is put on a nerve found in a “tunnel” in the wrists. In that tunnel, as the tendons grow and expand, it can cause inflammation. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome also include a burning sensation in the fingers, or even no feeling at all.

Dr. Guy Smith, medical director of Lafene Health Center, said those who spend a majority of their day sitting at typewriters or computers are most likely to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. Also, Smith said, those who use vibratory equipment in their daily jobs, such as jackhammers or other tools associated with construction work, are just as susceptible to the disease.

“The cause of the disease is largely occupational,” said Smith, who sees students on a weekly basis to treat carpal tunnel syndrome.

Beth Unger, vice provost and professor of computing and information sciences, agreed with Smith.”If you use a computer for more than six to seven hours per day, you need to take proper precautions,” Unger said. Smith said those precautions are both inexpensive and effective.”If you can find the associating factor (of the disease), that’s the cheapest treatment,” she said.Smith added that anti-inflammatory creams can take the pressure off the nerve as well.

There are wrist splints that keep the wrist in a neutral position. The cost of these splints usually ranges from $25 to $30, Smith said.

The Department of Computing and Information Sciences is also taking the necessary steps to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Unger ensures all computers in her department are equipped with wrist rests, and said most computers now come with warning labels when they are sold to consumers. These labels warn the consumer about the dangers of incorrect positioning of the wrists while sitting at the keyboard for extended periods of time.

Smith said he sees the new warning labels as a way to educate the public about carpal tunnel syndrome.

These precautions and tips add up to making students more aware of carpal tunnel syndrome, and one of Unger’s priorities is to try to protect students from its dangers.

“We educate (students) and try to make available anything to them that would keep them from being susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome,” Unger said.

Proper position prevents carpel tunnel

1. Adjust your chair

Adjust the height of the chair so your feet are firmly on the floor but not so low that your weight is not evenly distributed over the full seat surface.
Keep your body in a relaxed, yet upright, position. The backrest of your chair should support the inward curve of your lower back.

2.Adjust your keyboard and mouse

To prevent having to reach to the front or side, position the keyboard and pointing device (ex: mouse, trackball, etc.) directly in front and close to you.
Press the keys gently; keep your shoulders, arms, hands and fingers relaxed.

3.Adjust your monitor

Position whatever you are looking at most of the time (either the monitor or paper material) directly in front of you so that you do not have to turn your head to the side while you are typing.
Adjust the monitor height so that the top of the screen is at, or slightly below, eye level. Your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen.

Copyright 1998, Student Publications Inc. All rights reserved.This document may be distributed electronically, provided it is distributed in its entirety and includes this notice. However, it cannot be reprinted without the express written permission of Student Publications Inc., Kansas State University.

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