PROTECTING YOUR HANDS AND WRISTS FROM CTDsOffice ergonomicsWhat's the Harm?
Your fingers press and click and your wrists twist and bend millions of times a year. Precise finger movements allow you to press keyboard or telephone buttons and click on a mouse. But over time, repeated wear and tear may damage tissues. Your fingers may tingle or you may feel pain or numbness in your hand, arm or shoulder. Such symptoms are often linked to a group of illnesses called cumulative trauma disorders or CTDs.Risks to Remember
CTDs may take months or years to develop, so it's easy to miss early signs of trouble. But by recognising a few of the big CTD risk factors - harmful positions, excessive force and frequent repetition - you can take steps to prevent injury and control any present symptoms.Harmful Positions
Bending your hand backward. Pinching your fingers against the thumb. Any such extreme position puts pressure on muscles, tendons and nerves. Even "good positions" can be harmful if they're held for too long.Excessive Force
Force is pressure or strain on the body. You create force when you press a telephone button or click on a mouse. Contact force occurs when you press a hard surface, such as your palm against a desk edge. Combine force with a harmful position and your risk increases.Frequent Repetition
If you make the same moves the same way for long periods of time, your muscles get tense and tired. Without rest, they can't recover for normal function. So if you repeat the same movements for another long stretch, your already-tired muscles are a greater risk of injury.Set Yourself Up Right
Better positioning reduces pressure on muscles and tendons. A few simple adjustments can often make a big difference. Try the tips below.Keep a Neutral Position
A neutral position places the least amount of stress on your hands and wrists.
When your wrist is in a straight, neutral position, the muscles and tendons can move more freely. Blood circulated easily, feeding tissues and helping to repair any minor injury.Work Within Reach
The goal is to reach the most commonly used items without bending your wrist.
Place frequently used items closer to you; place items you use less often further away.
Sit or stand so that your hand and wrist can move straight out from your body toward the item you're reaching for. Keep your elbows close to your sides.
Always use a mouse pad that has a cushioned surface with a no-slide backing. Make sure the mouse pad is big enough for easy use. Moving a mouse around on a small pad can be hard on your wrist.
Try using a trackball or touch pad instead of a mouse. You may also find it easier to use cursor keys or keyboard commands instead of a mouse.Avoid These Positions
If possible, avoid putting any extra pressure on your hands and wrists. Bending or twisting them too far in any direction is risky.
Avoid twisting your wrist too far to either side.
Avoid bending your wrist too far up or down.
Avoid pinching your fingers together.
Avoid pressing into your palm or using your hand as a hammer.More You Can Do
Become aware of your hands. Notice how you use or abuse them. Then improve your habits both at home and at work. Help yourself, too, by staying fit and working with your supervisor.Alternate Tasks
Give your hands and wrists a rest. Vary tasks to use different muscles throughout the day. Take a few seconds every hour to rest and relax your hands and wrists. When you get home, give yourself time to recover before you start pulling weeds, sanding boards, knitting or playing the piano. Avoid any task that requires forceful or precise movements. Use the time right after work to read, swim or take a walk instead.Stay Fit
When you're fit, a healthy blood supply feeds your body, helping tired or damaged tissues recover faster. Stay fit by getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity throughout the day. Eating less fat and more fruits and vegetables helps, too. Lose any extra kilograms. If you smoke, quit. Your blood circulation is likely to improve, helping soft tissues stay healthier and heal faster.
Work with Your Supervisor
If your hands or wrists are at risk or if you're already having pain, pay attention. Think through your tasks. Talk with your supervisor about finding new ways to do your job and for ways to modify your workstation. Prevention is the only way to really protect your hands and wrists from cumulative trauma.Hand and Wrist Relaxers
This simple exercise done in your work area may help loosen up your hands and wrists, keeping them comfortable. If you have hand or arm pain, check with your health care provider before trying this exercise.
Holding your arms in front of you, make gentle fists. Point your knuckles toward the floor, holding for a few seconds.
Straighten your fingers and point them down. Do you feel the stretch in your lower arms?
Slowly point your fingers up toward the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds.
Relax and repeat all steps 3 times.