CTS: Computer Related Repetitive Strain Injuries

Are Computers Responsible for CTS?

Computers have long got the rap as one of the leading causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. There are always studies that both support and negate this statement, but it has become one of the leading reasons for missing work.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by the compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, which is in your wrist, due to various reasons.

Common sense tells you that people who use their wrists and hands the most are at more risk for CTS and other Repetitive Strain Injuries. While the first thing that pops into your mind might be people who sit at a computer all day or use a typewriter, people who are more at risk are ones who do heavy lifting and other such heavy labour.

Musicians are others who are at risk – playing percussion instruments, string instruments or the piano puts a lot of strain on the wrist.

Statistics among Computer Users

Those who work on computers come next. Among this group, people who type over sixty words per minute and exert more pressure while typing are at more risk than others. Projections show that among people who work on computers, the percentage of people who suffer symptoms of CTS could go up from 10% before the turn of the century to 50% by 2010. Even now, in studies, an average of 30% of people complained of suffering from symptoms that indicate Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other related Repetitive Strain Injuries, or RTIs.

Avoiding RTI While Working on Computers

There are ways to avoid such Repetitive Strain Injuries while working at the computer, though. Proper posture is the first step. When you sit in front of the computer, pay attention to how you sit and see if there are things you must change. First of all, when you type for prolonged periods of time, you have to see if your wrist is bent most of the time. If it is, you are putting yourself more at risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Making sure that the keyboard is at the same level as your elbow makes a lot of distance. This way, your forearm will be parallel to the floor, and your wrist will not be bent.

Ensure that you are sitting straight. This might sound a bit like a Finishing School for Young Ladies, but especially when you are sitting in front of a computer, making sure that your hip is bent at 90 degrees – that is, making sure that your back is straight – and keeping your feet flat on the ground is very important. This means that your chair should be at the right height and the computer’s keyboard and monitor should also be at the right height for you.

Even if you have no tingling, numbness or pain, the best way to prevent CTS is to take short breaks, at least once every twenty minutes. Do gentle wrist exercises at this time. CTS is easiest to cure, with less chance of recurrence, in its early stages. If you begin to exhibit the symptoms, wear either a splint or a fingerless glove, if you cannot type with a splint. Take frequent breaks, correct your posture and use an ice pack and anti-inflammatory medicine if it hurts, but see your doctor as soon as you can.

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