Repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are the most common job-related injuries and are responsible for the highest number of days lost. One of the most well-known types of repetitive stress injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) accounts for over two million visits to physicians’ offices and approximately 465,000 carpal tunnel release operations each year, making it the most frequent surgery of the hand and wrist.
Acupuncture is as effective as the corticosteroid, prednisone, for the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), according to a 2009 study published in The Clinical Journal of Pain. The randomized, controlled study investigated the efficacy of acupuncture compared with steroid treatment in patients with mild-to-moderate carpal tunnel syndrome as measured by both nerve conduction studies and symptom assessment surveys. The researchers concluded that acupuncture is just as worthy and viable a treatment for those suffering from mild to moderate symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome as taking the drug prednisolone. This is good news for patients who cannot tolerate oral steroids or prefer to handle their condition without the use of pharmaceutical drugs.
In addition to reducing swelling, inflammation and pain, acupuncture also addresses headaches, neck pain, shoulder stiffness and sleeping problems that often accompany this condition.
Managing repetitive stress injuries often requires some lifestyle changes. It can take time to find a strategy that works best for you. Here are a few minor changes you can implement to minimize stress on your hands and wrists:
Alternate Tasks — avoid doing the same task for more than a couple of hours at a time and alternate between tasks that use different muscle groups where possible.
Take a Break — fatigue is a sign that you need to take a break. Take small breaks to gently stretch and bend your hands and wrists and readjust your position.
Reduce Pressure — many people use more force than needed to perform tasks involving their hands, which can increase pressure and cause irritation. Be mindful of the speed and amount of pressure used to perform tasks. Ease up, slow down and grip using your palm or whole hand to distribute the load. If using tools such as riveters or jackhammers for extended periods, take frequent breaks or operate the tool at a speed that causes the least amount of vibration.
Cultivate Good Posture — incorrect posture can cause your shoulders to roll forward, shortening neck and shoulder muscles and compressing nerves in your neck, which can affect your wrists, hands and fingers. Your shoulders and neck should be relaxed to open the chest and allow your head to float upwards without strain. When using a keyboard, wrists should be in a relaxed middle position and in a straight line with your forearms at elbow height or slightly lower.