Hand Ergonomics Myths

FACT: Carpal tunnel syndrome is often a work-related condition. 

And as they say, prevention is still the best medicine. It is therefore essential to create a smarter workspace by setting up the proper workstation (including the placement of your chair, computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse), as well as arranging your position for your daily work activities. By making wrist and hand ergonomics central to workplace operations, industry leaders, employers, and employees can prevent hand injuries and ensure a more productive environment. However, there are common misconceptions about how the workplace contributes to the development of wrist and hand conditions and how to prevent them.

At the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona we strive to always provide the best, most appropriate and effective care for all of our patients. With our state-of-the-art treatments that aim for the fastest, most complete relief and return to full function of the hand, wrist, or elbow, you can rest assured that you will be given optimal results with a rapid return to life, work, and activity. 

MYTH 1: Typing On The Keyboard Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This is probably the most common myth about carpal tunnel syndrome. While continuously typing does put pressure on your wrist and median nerve, it is not considered a contributing factor. However, it can still cause pain or put a strain on the hand and wrist. Such conditions are called upper-extremity disorders. For these disorders, therapies can help alleviate their symptoms, as well as adjusting your workstation setup to ensure your hands are not performing any awkward movements.

MYTH 2: Desk Jobs Reduce The Risk For Any Hand Or Wrist-Related Injuries

Any task that is repeatedly performed while seated can contribute to the stress of the neck, shoulders, hands, wrists, and even your legs, especially when you slouch. Anyone who spends many hours seated should use ergonomic measures. 

And while computer work will rarely involve any heavy lifting, there are certain tasks that can affect your smaller, localized muscle groups. Examples are:

  • Using a pointing device can put a strain on your hand and arm muscles as you continually work on keeping the gadget steady
  • If your mouse is placed too far away, you’ll be forced to repeatedly stretch your arm outward and risk making awkward hand and wrist movements

MYTH 3: Only Repetitive Activities In The Workplace Can Contribute To The Development Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

It is not only repetitive or prolonged wrist motions that can trigger carpal tunnel. Certain working conditions can contribute as well. Examples include:

  • Exerting force with your hands
  • Being in an awkward position (e.g., tasks that involve reaching above the shoulder or the angulation of your wrists)
  • Excessive and continuous vibration from tools or gadgets you use (vibrations can cause the tissue to swell, causing carpal tunnel symptoms to flare up)
  • Cold temperatures (an extremely cold office can restrict blood flow, causing muscle tissue to expand and add pressure on the median nerve)

MYTH 4: It Is Best to Always Use The Same Tools, Gadgets, And Equipment 

Actually, you should consider switching things up and trying a different tool or grip when working. Many employees benefit from using a split, V-shaped keyboard. You can try it for a week and see which style works best for you. And when using tools and gadgets, try modifying the way you hold them or simply switch hands.

FAQS

Q: How Should I Setup My Workstation?

A: It is important to take a comprehensive and holistic view of your workstation. Aside from keeping all your necessities (keyboard, mouse, documents, and supplies) no more than 16-18 inches away to avoid awkward movements while reaching for them, you also have to think about your desk, chair, and monitor. This UW Health article explains what an ergonomically correct workstation is:

  • Your computer monitor should be at your eye level
  • Using a telephone headset will help you avoid any awkward movements while typing, talking, or doing other tasks
  • A wrist pad at the bottom of the keyboard will help keep your wrists in a neutral, almost straight position (not bent up or down) while you take a break from typing. When typing or using your mouse, try raising your forearms a little so your wrists are in a neutral position while allowing your arms and hands to move freely. When resting your arms on your chair, make sure your forearms are parallel to the floor and your wrists are neutral. 
  • Using a footrest will help reduce the pressure on your lower back
  • Armrests should allow your elbows to be close to the side of your body and bend at an angle between 90-100 degrees.
  • Your chair should be adjustable. Modifying its height will allow your feet to rest on the floor or on a footrest. The back of the chair should also be adjustable to accommodate different positions.

Aside from having an ergonomically correct workstation, be sure to have little breaks every hour. You can also do wrist stretching exercises to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

Q: Should I Get A Wrist Rest?

A: Any support given to the wrists and forearms can help ease a lot of muscular tension from the neck, shoulders, and arms, as well as prevent any other parts of the body from having unnecessary strain or pressure. Therefore, any rest device should be selected as part of an ergonomically-designed workstation. If choosing to use a wrist rest, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests the following:

  • Your hands and wrists should move freely and be elevated above the wrist/palm rest while typing. When resting, the pad should contact the heel or palm of your hand, not your wrist.
  • Reduce bending of the wrists by adjusting other workstation components (chair, desk, keyboard) so the wrist can maintain an in-line, neutral posture.
  • Match the wrist support to the width, height, and slope of the front edge of the keyboard (keeping in mind that the goal is to keep wrist postures as straight as possible).
  • Provide wrist/palm supports that are fairly soft and rounded to minimize pressure on the wrist. The support should be at least 3.8 cm (1.5 inches) deep.

Q: If I Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Is Surgery My Only Option?

A: If diagnosed early, wearing wrist splints, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroid injections may help relieve pain in the short term. If your condition does not respond to these treatment options, surgery is usually the only other alternative. However, open carpal tunnel surgery which involves a large incision and a 6 to 8-week recovery period isn’t the only solution.

As the leader in minimally invasive hand surgery, Dr. Michael Fitzmaurice of the Fitzmaurice Hand Institute has pioneered several new techniques and procedures that improve visualization and reduce surgical impact. He has developed EndoTech –a new patent-pending system that provides the most advanced visualization of any endoscopic hand surgery technique. This minimally-invasive instrumentation system allows the surgeon to perform procedures in the safest and most effective manner possible, using only a single small incision (less than 1 cm) that allows for much less pain and faster healing with minimal scar tissue. In addition to carpal tunnel syndrome, EndoTech can treat other hand and arm conditions such as tennis elbow and de Quervain’s disease.

Schedule An Appointment in our Arizona office

If you’d like to learn more about carpal tunnel syndrome or our less-invasive hand and wrist surgery option, schedule a consultation by calling our Scottsdale office today.


Fitzmaurice Hand Institute
8841 E Bell Rd #201
Scottsdale, AZ 85260