The year 2020 will be remembered for many things, including the way it turned many of our homes into makeshift offices, cobbled together with items from around the house. Whether doomscrolling or doing actual work, we’re spending a lot of time at our kitchen tables or slouched on the couch in front of our screens. And our bodies are paying for it.
The contortion required to refresh Twitter for the 400th time (just us?) has health implications, especially on our hands and wrists.
“Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve is being compressed inside a tunnel in your wrist,” Dr. Daniel Polatsch, president of the New York Society for Surgery of the Hand, told HuffPost. “The narrow passageway is made up of bones and a ligament. The nerve gives us sensation to our thumb, index, long and half our ring finger. Symptoms are typically numbness, tingling or burning in some or all of these fingers, often worse at night.” Though most cases are mild and can improve using different tactics, it can, without treatment, lead to permanent loss of sensation and weakness.
The added stressors on our hands may be due to our working environments at home.
“There may be an uptick in carpal tunnel due to COVID, as people are working from home on small laptops and in poor ergonomic environments,” Dr. Charles Kim, physiatrist and pain medicine specialist at NYU Langone Health, told HuffPost over email. “Typing on a small laptop is not good for the wrist,” he said. Polatsch has noticed an increase in complaints from his patients, as well.
“To prevent carpal tunnel, people should avoid typing with your wrist in flexion or extension,” Kim said. “A neutral wrist position is best.” A brace is a great aid for maintaining that neutral position.
Braces aren’t the only level of defense, Polatsch said. It’s just as important to evaluate your work environment and routine. “Taking frequent breaks from work or activity that worsen symptoms can often help,” he said. “If symptoms are significant enough, a carpal tunnel steroid injection can easily be performed in the office, which often quickly eliminates symptoms.”
Kim also suggests that your desk accessories can help: “Use a mouse with a neutral wrist, trackball or trackpad,” he said. “Also consider getting an external keyboard, using a wrist rest bar or a mouse wrist rest pad.”
Neither Kim or Polatsch have a preference for a specific brand of brace, but both agree you should look for a brace that helps you achieve a neutral wrist. “It should not be overextended or flexed, or it can exacerbate the symptoms,” Polatsch said.
“Implementing these changes can help improve carpal tunnel symptoms,” Kim said.
Check out some of the best-reviewed carpal tunnel equipment we found from around the web below.