Office Workers: How to Avoid Hand, Wrist & Elbow Injuries
The sports medicine specialists at our Ottawa physiotherapy and chiropractic clinics don’t just treat athletes. A sedentary job working at a desk and computer may seem relatively risk-free when it comes to injuries and accidents, but it’s actually a high risk area for specific types of injuries – namely, those that affect the lower arm from the elbow to the wrist, and the hands.
What’s The Risk?
Repetitive strain injury (or RSI) is the result of repeated use of your lower arm and hand. Awkward or strained movements contribute to the risk. Tendinitis (inflammation of the tendons), carpal tunnel syndrome (inflammation of the median nerve that runs from the elbow to the hand), and lateral epicondylitis, or mouse elbow (inflammation of the tendons at the elbow), are the most common RSIs.
The symptoms include tingling and numbness, along with pain, sensitivity, swelling, and eventually, the inability to grasp objects using the fingers and thumb.
A Multi-Pronged Approach
Taking care of your body as you work involves a multi-pronged approach. There are a few areas to consider to minimize the risk of injury.
Your work station:
- Clear your workspace of clutter to avoid having to reach around objects.
- Put your work, including your computer screen, keyboard, and anything you will be referencing, right in front of you.
- Keep your arms close to your body, and bend the elbows at an easy 90-degree angle.
- Keep your lower arm straight, and avoiding bending your wrists either way.
- Be sure the keyboard is at the right height – adjust your chair or the keyboard, rather than adjusting your arm movements.
- Your Ottawa physiotherapist or other sports medicine specialist can provide an ergonomic assessment of your work area.
- A split keyboard is recommended, since it allows you to keep your wrists and hands in a natural line.
- Use a wrist pad or even a rolled up towel – it keeps your wrist in the correct straight line from the elbow to the fingers.
- Make sure your mouse is the right size for your palm – too small and your muscles have to work too hard.
- Keep your fingers in a straight line with your forearm and avoid curling them too much.
- Avoid gripping your mouse too tightly.
- Avoid resting your forearm, elbow or wrist on a hard surface.
- Take breaks every 30 minutes.
- During your breaks, stretch your fingers back towards your arm, and do some shoulder stretches.
- Walk at least around your home for 10 to 15 minutes with your arms dangling loosely at your sides.
If you are experiencing pain, numbness or loss of movement or range in your elbow, wrist, hand or fingers, don’t hesitate to contact one of our Ottawa physiotherapy and sports medicine clinics for a consultation.