The carpal tunnel is a small tunnel or passageway found in the wrist that houses the median nerve. If this passageway narrows—such as through repetitive hand use or by keeping the hand and wrist in the same position for a long time, like when driving—it can result in carpal tunnel syndrome.
With carpal syndrome, pressure is placed on the median nerve and blood supply is reduced to the hand. The result is pain, weakness, tingling and numbness. How can you prevent carpal tunnel syndrome when you drive truck for a living? Here are four options to consider.
Watch your hand and wrist position
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons shares that one of the main causes of carpal tunnel is “extreme flexion or extension of the hand and wrist for a prolonged period of time.” Look at the position of your hands and wrists while driving.
Are they flexed or extended unnecessarily? Modifying how you hold your wrists so they aren’t in extreme positions can help prevent carpal tunnel.
Wear a wrist brace
If you find that it’s hard to remember to check your hand and wrist position regularly, or you simply want a bit of reinforcement, a wrist brace can help. Wear the brace while driving to stop your wrist from being in a position that causes more pressure on the carpal tunnel.
The brace can also be worn at other times when your wrist position may be compromised, such as when sleeping or if using the computer for long periods.
Take regular breaks
The longer your hands and wrists are in the same position, the greater your risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Taking frequent breaks gives the carpal tunnel and all the tissues around it time to relax.
Even if you can’t relax both hands at the same time, alternating one and then the other can give each wrist more time to recover, albeit at different times.
Perform wrist stretches
Another way to prevent carpal tunnel, according to the National Institutes of Health, is to perform exercises designed to stretch the wrist area. These can help reduce the tension and inflammation that causes this tunnel to narrow. Exercises to try include:
- Wrist extension stretch: Extend your right arm in front of you, as if trying to stop an approaching car. Use your left hand to gently pull your right fingers toward you. You should feel a stretch on the underside of your forearm. Hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then perform the same stretch on the other arm.
- Wrist flexion stretch: In this exercise, the right arm is extended in front like with the wrist extension stretch. However, instead of the fingers pointing toward the ceiling, they are pointing toward the floor (as if extending your hand for someone to kiss). Using the left hand, gently pull the fingers toward the body. Again, you should feel a stretch in the forearm, except this stretch will be more on the outside of the forearm than the inside. Hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then switch to the other side.
- Wrist lift: Place one hand on a table or counter, palm down. Put the other hand on top of it so the fingers on the top hand are perpendicular to the fingers on the bottom hand. Try to lift the bottom hand while stopping the lift with the top hand. Hold for a few seconds and release. Do this exercise 3 to 5 times, then repeat with the other hand on the bottom.
- Hand squeeze: You know those stress balls? They aren’t just good for getting your tension out. They also help prevent carpal tunnel by strengthening the forearm and wrist. Grab the ball, squeeze it for a few seconds and release. Do this exercise 5 to 10 times, then switch to the other hand.
Doing these four things can help prevent carpal tunnel while driving truck. Make them a part of your regular workday to get all the benefits that each provides.
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