COVID-19 has brought a time of challenges and struggles to the world. Among these struggles is the ability to work from home full time. Many Americans across the country find themselves unable to return to the office and striving to find a way to work from home. Whether your job has always been stationed at a computer or a desk set up is new to you, many people find themselves experiencing new pains in the hands and wrists from sitting at the computer. In this blog, we’ll discuss some common conditions caused by long hours of computer usage and some ways to help alleviate the pain.
Given the posture of your hands and repeated movements, it’s no wonder that regular computer users develop hand and wrist issues over time. Overuse and poor mechanics are generally the culprit for these conditions. Two of the most common hand problems we see at Motus related to desk jobs are Carpal Tunnel and De Quervain’s Tendonitis.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is probably the most well known hand condition out there. While just about everybody has heard of Carpal Tunnel, not many actually know what Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is. The repetitive motion in the fingers and bending of the hand and wrist (such as jobs that require a lot of typing) can cause the tendons in your hand to swell, putting pressure on your median nerve. This overuse can affect the fingers, wrist, hand and forearm, causing symptoms including tingling, numbness and pain. While non-surgical interventions can be used during the early stages of CTS, surgery is often required the worse the condition gets.
The lesser-known De Quervain’s Tendonitis/ Tenosynovitis, is a condition that affects the thumb and wrist due to overuse of the wrist (much like with Carpal Tunnel). The two tendons around the base of the thumb become swollen; the inflammation puts pressure on nearby nerves, causing pain and numbness and restricts normal movements. One sign that you might be suffering from De Quervain’s is if you experience severe pain at the base of your thumb while making a fist or attempting to hold an object. In mild cases, the condition can be remedied with rest, anti-inflammatory medication and occupational therapy. For more moderate to severe cases, surgery is the more likely course of treatment.
Workstation Set Up
Having a proper workstation arrangement can make all the difference when preventing hand and wrist pain.
- Your keyboard should be placed at elbow height, allowing you to keep your wrists straight, but relaxed while typing and using the mouse. Using keyboard shortcuts whenever possible can help reduce awkward wrist movements from mouse use.
- Frequently used items should be placed closer to you, within hand reach. Items that are only used occasionally should be placed further from general reach.
- Keeping your forearms parallel to the floor will allow for better hand and wrist posture.
Regularly completing 3 rounds of 10 for each exercise while on a phone call or while taking a break from typing could greatly reduce your risk of developing Carpal Tunnel or De Quervain’s from your desk job. Click the links below to check out the home exercise pages we have created for our patients and regularly use in clinic!