Prevent carpal tunnel and repetitive stress injury with frequent check-ins
Since we work at the computer so much, it’s important to know how to prevent repetitive stress injury or carpal tunnel. I’m not a medical professional and you should consult yours, but here’s my personal experience of healing and prevention.
A year into my online business I began to feel tingling and pain in my wrists. I knew it could get worse if I didn’t do something about it.
So I started doing the following 3 actions.
The symptoms decreased, and were gone after a few months.
Last year, I had stopped doing these actions and the symptoms came back. Once again, renewing the following 3 habits has decreased and eliminated the symptoms.
If you take one thing away from this article, it’s to take many tiny breaks in any working hour. I call them micro-breaks because they’re about 10 seconds each time.
Many of us keep our hands at the keyboard for dozens of minutes at a time. Whether we are typing, or in between thoughts, our hands stay at the keyboard the whole time. This means we have very little body movement in any working hour… not good for our health.
Instead, I have built the habit of taking my hands off the keyboard during thought pauses, and doing one of the following:
- just letting them drop to my sides
- gently holding my fingers together, elbows on table, and resting my chin on them
- arms on table with palms together (like praying or namaste)
- gently massaging my forehead and head
I do one of these for just five to ten seconds, then my hands are back to the keyboard. Even in typing this sentence, I did a microbreak because I usually need at least one thinking pause in writing any long sentence. That might be too much for you, but I encourage you to take your hands off the keyboard and let them drop to your sides, at least every few paragraphs of typing.
On some of your microbreaks, in your longer thought pauses, also become aware of your neck and shoulders. Hands dropped to your sides, lift up your shoulders, scrunch them up for a few seconds, then completely relax and take a few deep breaths.
Gentle Massages and Stretches
Once an hour during my workday, I do some gentle massages and stretches of my neck, shoulders, arms, hands, back, and legs.
I don’t think it matters how you do these stretches as long as you keep 2 things in mind:
- That you are stretching or moving your neck, shoulders, arms, hands, back, and legs in a variety of ways.
- That you are doing them gently. Be careful of feeling strain, and don’t do any stretch for long. Just a few seconds helps.
There’s no magical stretch to memorize. Do any stretch that feels good to you, but make sure to do the body areas mentioned above. The point is to have greater range of body movement throughout the day, to encourage your blood and qi circulation.
If you use the pomodoro method of working 25 minutes with a 5 minute break, then that 5 minute break is perfect for gentle stretches.
Or if you use Focusmate (which I do multiple times a day), then do your stretches in the 10 minute between-session breaks.
After I do the massage and stretch, I take 30 seconds for my Energy Reboot. I believe that our emotional balance contributes to physical health. My regular energy reboot (frequently bringing me back to calm strength in my emotions) has helped me to prevent these and other ailments too.
Longer Breaks, Shorter Work Sessions
Most of my work sessions are 90 minutes or less. And during any work session, I am taking many micro-breaks, and gentle massage and stretch at least once an hour.
In between work sessions, my long breaks might include taking a nap, taking a walk, or eating a meal.
To summarize, these are the 3 actions that have helped me prevent RSI and carpal tunnel, even though I’ve used the computer for 40+ hours per week for many years:
- Frequent Micro-Breaks
- Gentle Massage and Stretch
- Short Work Sessions with Long Breaks
Since working at the computer is probably a big part of your day, I encourage you to implement these kinds of habits as soon as possible. Talk with your medical professional to confirm whether these practices are good for you specifically (especially if you already have injuries to be mindful of.)
Your physical health is the foundation of your ability to work, so it’s worth giving it the highest priority!