What is it?
The carpal tunnel is a tunnel out of connective tissue between the bony forearm and hand. The tunnel is a passage for nerves such as for movement of the fingers and haptic feedback of the hand. While using the computer and interacting with a mouse the wrist is strongly bent. This causes a contraction of this nerve tunnel and over longer time the nerves passing through will be damaged. Consequential effects are pain during and after mouse use. Symptoms might be a tingling feeling, pain specifically at night (when the body is at rests), numb hands or decreased fine motor skills. Effects must be taken serious as they worsen with time. An initial inflammation of the nerve can result into a permanent nerve damage.
How to avoid itThere are a couple of ways to avoid the carpal tunnel syndrome or potentially find relief over time.
Review your workplace. An ergonomic workplace reduces pressure on the wrist. Check if your wrist is bend strong while using the keyboard. If yes, think about a height adjustable keyboard rest or a broad palm support for your keyboard. Sit upright with your forearms resting on the desk. Keep the mouse near the keyboard, and use it freely with the movement coming from the elbow.
A mini pad to relief the wrist. There is a new product called KAKUM on the market that can increase the ergonomics of the workplace. KAKUM is a wrist pad. The wrist is rested on the pad while the mouse is used as usual. Through the pad's roundness the wrist is kept in a straight position and therewith blockage of the carpal tunnel is avoided. KAKUM can be adjusted to individual ergonomic needs according to the supplier. Further, according to the supplier the material of the device is such that moves easily along the hand-movements over the desk. Below you see KAKUM, it is designed by Yanko Design.
Mouse pads. Mouse pads with wrist support help to keep the wrist straight. However, their convenience depends on the work conducted at the computer. Mouse pads are bound to a small radius of mouse use and are not suitable, for example, for a graphic designer who uses the mouse in wider space. While the wrist is straight, due to the fixed position the mouse might be used more over the wrist rather than the elbow which can increase problems. Further, the wrist support in a mouse pad is typically fixed and cannot be adjusted in height which can make it, speaking from my experience, uncomfortable.
A wrist splint. A wrist splint helps again to keep the wrist straight and can bring pain relief over time. For any potential relief the NHS recommends to wear it at least 4 weeks.
A trackball. A trackball is an alternative to the mouse. On the right side or directly in the middle of the device is a ball (more or less looking out of the device). The computer mouse icon on screen is controlled by movements of the physical ball. Typically the ball is moved with the fingertips.
Regular breaks. Regular breaks help to bring rest to wrists and eyes. It is recommended to take a break from the screen every hour. It is recommended to stretch the hands and to rest the hands during a break, for example, by placing them palms up in the lap. However, sometimes it is difficult to take a break. Relief can be a reminder, such as the freeware program Workrave. After a preset time a reminder will appear on screen. The duration of a break is adjustable from mini-breaks to longer breaks like lunch time. The application includes a set of exercises that could be conducted breaks. Download Workrave here.
- NHS, 2018. Carpal tunnel syndrome. (online) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/
- Yanko design, 2013. A backbone for your wrist. (online) http://www.yankodesign.com/2013/04/03/a-backbone-for-your-wrist
- Workrave, (online) http://workrave.softonic.de/download
- Safety and Health Magazine, 2011. Workplace myth? (online) https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/6383-workplace-myth