Preventing and Dealing With Carpal Tunnel in the Office

Maintaining top talent is a struggle that every company must face. So what do many companies do? Some create a kick-ass culture to be envied. Others give out amazing benefits that individuals are unwilling to give up. Still others provide the ability to determine when, where, and how they work. While identifying how to retain employees, managers and business owners need to analyze how the daily work flow of individual employees might contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome in their future.

What is Carpal Tunnel?

Individuals develop carpal tunnel when repeated hand motions (tapping keys or scrolling on a mouse) causes the median nerve in the wrist that delivers blood to thumb, pointer, middle, and ring finger to be compressed. When that occurs, the person may experience pain from the fingertips to the shoulder.

Why Should Companies Be Concerned?

There is a tendency in American society, and especially in the corporate landscape, to dismiss non-serious injuries. University of Texas at El Paso professor Diane Monsivais spent part of her scientific career diving into how pain was perceived in the workplace. Monsivais notes that there is a tendency to assume “that the painful condition” reported by coworkers that have no evidence (a physical injury you can see) is “imagined instead of real.”

As a company a far more financially lucrative stance towards reports of hand pain is not to dismiss it as a lie or a figment of the individual’s imagination, but to help the individual deal with the symptoms. Why? Let’s face it, if you pay employees to type 40 hours a week, carpal tunnel isn’t an if, it’s a when.

When that happens, carpal tunnel:

  • Causes pain that decreases efficiency
  • Forces employees to rest their hands for a few weeks.
  • Get surgery to alleviate the symptoms.
  • Locate another job with a company who will either work with them or allow their hand some rest. Hiring a new employee costs employers 200 times the previous employee’s salary, and you won’t have any guarantees they’ll be a good worker.

Companies can help employees immensely by taking steps to aid their employees with carpal tunnel, and investing in some preventative measures to protect their employees from developing the condition. Here are a few places to start.

Over The Counter Pain Aids. Many doctors recommend that individuals take pain medication like Tylenol or Ibuprofen to help manage pain and decrease inflammation. If you go this route, you might also want to ensure that all of your employees understand how to safely take the pills.

Ergonomic Computer Equipment. Ergonomic keyboards, mice, and wrist rest supports are designed to reduce stress on the hands, wrist, and arms by allowing individuals to place their hands and wrists in a more natural position. The keyboard also encourages employees to type in a manner that utilizes all of their fingers equally which relieves strain. The mice also have an added bonus of having buttons that allow individuals to utilize multiple fingers. Group Exercises

While you can just make these purchases as the need arises, companies could be more preventative about the condition by replacing the regular keyboards with ergonomic ones (the cheapest ones run around $30 to $50).

Teach Carpal Tunnel Prevention at Work

Not all carpal tunnel prevention and alleviation will cost money. Spend a little time teaching about how to prevent and relieve carpal tunnel. Many of the lesson can be going over different workouts that can employees can engage in as a group or as an individual to encourage hand health. Much of these exercises focus on strengthening wrist strength and uncompressing the median nerve.

The longer companies can get senior employees to remain with a company, the more money they continue to make. Office work often leads employees to develop carpal tunnel syndrome that could force employees to leave. By helping employees deal with the symptoms and taking actions to prevent employees from developing the injury, companies can potentially hold onto their employees a little longer.