More and more people are working from home nowadays due to the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. That might mean makeshift work stations that aren’t ideal when it comes to instituting proper ergonomics and avoiding carpal tunnel problems.
“Carpal tunnel symptoms can be exacerbated by repetitive hand motion, vibration, and by the wrists being held in certain positions for extended periods of time,” said C. Liam Dwyer, M.D., a hand and upper extremity surgeon at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. “These provoking positions and activities are often related to one’s work or hobbies and can be impacted by the surroundings and setting of that individual, including working from home.”
According to Thomas Dominick, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at SUN Orthopaedics of Evangelical, working from home doesn't equate to a higher risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, but it is important that a suitable work station is set up according to the individual. For example, it's important that a person be aware of how they are sitting, making sure the neck is in a neutral position, looking forward, “with your wrists not hyper-flexed or hyper-extended”.
“Take frequent breaks,” he added, and “If you get numbness, modify what you’re doing.”
Some studies, according to Holly N. Shadle, DNP, CRNP, FNP-BC, Neurosurgery at UPMC Williamsport, have shown that mouse use, not the use of a keyboard, may cause more aggravation. But there's not enough solid evidence, she said, "to support extensive computer use as a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome, although it may cause a different form of hand pain."
In fact, the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, she said, "may be more reported in those performing assembly line work than it is among those who sit at a desk and use a computer all day."