Occupational hazard - carpal tunnel?

Subject: Occupational hazard - carpal tunnel?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 12 Mar 2002 12:28:50 -0500

Annamarie Pluhar reports: <<Since I'm beginning to exhibit early symptoms of
carpal tunnel, I thought I'd ask for personal experience with forestalling
the syndrome.>>

First off, don't assume that you've got CTS; there are many other problems
that can mimic this, and a typical GP (general practitioner) may not be
qualified to judge your condition. Proper diagnosis and treatment requires a
measure of expertise.

<<I'm pretty sure the culprit is the mousing I do with my PC laptop.>>

One thing you might try is to move the mouse to the left side of the
keyboard. I was having similar problems until I discovered that my
particular problem resulted from overextending my arm to reach the mouse;
the reach is much less on the left side of the keyboard because there's no
numeric keypad to interfere. Took me about a week to master lefthanded
mousing, and now I'm sometimes faster with my left hand than with my right.
Another thing to investigate is using keyboard shortcuts where possible;
they're often faster and less painful than the mouse--but that assumes your
problem is arising from mousing and not from pounding the keyboard too hard
or too often. See previous paragraph!

<<My Mac has a lowered keyboard and a wrist rest.>>

Be careful with wrist rests; if you actually put any significant weight on
them, the resulting compression of the muscles around your wrist can lead to
different problems with your hands. Ideally, your hands should float above
the keyboard rather than resting on it--assuming that this keeps your wrists
largely unbent and doesn't cause additional strain on your arms or hands or

<<I now know that one should take a break every 20 minutes or so. I've been
shown some stretches to do.>>

Exercising to strengthen the muscles that support your arms, wrists, and
fingers can also help. When these muscles are strong, they help keep the
various components of your arm properly aligned. When the muscles are weak,
they can't provide the necessary support.

But don't forget: this is generic advice that has to be subjected to a
strong reality check by an expert. The guidelines are sound, but how they
apply in your specific situation is going to vary--sometimes dramatically.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones; but an
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house"--Jules Henri Poincaré

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