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Ergonomic tips for avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome

Although laptop and tablets are boasting an unprecedented popularity, the risks to users may be increasing. Users more plugged in than ever, using social media as well as online forums, chat rooms, and web surfing. That amounts to more hours spent performing repetitive hand motions.

Surprisingly, many computer users are still unaware of simple, anatomical hand positions that may spare them from repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. For starters, the wrist should be in a straight line behind all five fingers pointed in a straight position. Unfortunately, the standard QWERTY keyboard makes this next to impossible, requiring users to bring the thumbs of both hands closer in together -- and angled away from the wrists -- to match the horizontal lineup of the keyboard.

The elevation of the wrists is another easy area to monitor. Instead of resting arms on a table, wrists should be free floating above the keyboard in a gently sloping descent. Unfortunately, the flat presentation of many keyboards requires some users to bend their wrists down, in order to reach lower lines of keys.

Compressive median nerve injury, or carpal tunnel syndrome, is usually preceded by fatigue and pain. If disregarded, however, disability in the hand may result. Prevention is often easier than the cure. One option is carpal tunnel surgery, although that procedure may leave scar tissue and not solve the underlying problem of improper keyboard use.

Of course, knowledge of healthy ergonomic position is one thing, while practical implementation can be quite another. Some users find ergonomic keyboards, often presented in a split keyboard and/or wave pattern, to facilitate better anatomical wrist position at the keys. Other users may not discover a problem until it’s too late.

Although most patients can recover from this condition, there may be periods where they are unable to work. If complications from carpal tunnel syndrome are expected to prevent an individual from working for twelve months or more, he or she may be eligible for Social Security disability insurance benefits.

Source: huffingtonpost.com, "Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Who's at Risk and How to Prevent Its Disabling Effects," Michael Zazzali, May 30, 2013

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