As an electrician, holding hand tools and working with your hands all day, every day, you are at high risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. In this blog, we go over everything you need to know about carpal tunnel syndrome, including the symptoms and how you can prevent it.
What Is Carpal Tunnel?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve-a large nerve in the middle of your wrist-is compressed. The median nerve controls movement and feeling in your thumb and your first three fingers. The space where the median nerve is located is just large enough to fit the nerve, so anything that makes the space smaller can cut off circulation, causing tingling, pain, and numbness in the fingers.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel?
Wrist injuries, regular use of hand tools, or any repetitive motion done with the wrists for long periods of time can cause carpal tunnel. Many people who spend all day typing develop carpal tunnel, as do construction workers and electricians.
Additionally, certain illnesses or conditions can contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. These conditions include obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and hypothyroidism.
In general, women are more likely to develop the syndrome. Smoking can also put you at higher risk and make carpal tunnel worse it by affecting the blood flow to your median nerve.
What Are Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel?
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include numbness, pain, burning, or tingling in the wrist or fingers, except for the little finger. These sensations may get worse when you use your hands or grip a tool. Your hands, fingers, and wrists may feel weaker than normal, causing you to drop things.
Normal, everyday actions may be more difficult, including your work as an electrician. Actions such as opening jars or holding a fork may be difficult. Even handling tools during a job may seem harder than usual. You may experience temporary relief when you shake your hands.
How Do You Treat Carpal Tunnel?
There are numerous treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome, and the kind of treatment you receive depends on how long you’ve had it, what caused it, and how severe your symptoms are. At home, you can change the activities that may cause carpal tunnel and wear a wrist splint.
In slightly more severe cases, your doctor may send you to physical therapy where you will learn exercises and stretches to help with the discomfort. There are also medications that reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Your doctor may also recommend corticosteroids that are injected into the wrist.
In extreme cases where other treatments don’t seem to work, surgery may be necessary. Surgery may also be performed if the carpal tunnel has caused nerve damage.
How Can You Prevent Carpal Tunnel?
Ideally, you want to do everything you can to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. As an electrician, you can’t eliminate all the repetitive motion that may cause the condition, but there are measures you can take that reduce the stress and strain on your hands and wrists. Take regular breaks and stretch your hands and fingers.
If you work with vibrating tools, wear gel-padded gloves to absorb the vibrations. If possible, change activities for a few minutes each hour so your muscles don’t get stiff. Relax your grip on hand tools and also while driving. Most people use more force than necessary when they perform these or similar tasks, causing undue stress on the hands and wrists.
Also keep your hands warm. Cold keeps your muscles stiff, so wear gloves or adjust the room temperature. While sleeping, wear wrist braces to keep your wrists from bending at unnatural angles.
If you believe you’re developing carpal tunnel syndrome, talk to your doctor today. If you’d like to learn safety tips so you can prevent this condition, enroll in a workplace safety training course.