In the United States, 50 out of 1,000 people have carpal tunnel syndrome at any given time. This common condition occurs when a major nerve in the hand is compressed by the carpal ligament. You can get carpal tunnel syndrome after repeating the same hand motion over a long period of time, or by injuring the median nerve, which runs from the palm side of the hand to the wrist and arm.
While athletes can develop carpal tunnel syndrome after activities like paddling and bicycling, many employees are also at a high risk of developing the condition. After long hours of using their hands and fingers, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms can leave workers with a tingling sensation that travels from their wrist up their arm. Numbness and arm weakness can also be symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, leaving workers unable to pick up objects or turn their wrist. Methods like manual therapy and rest can help ease carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, but prevention techniques can help stop it from developing in the first place.
Some jobs put workers at a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome than others. By knowing which types can expose workers the most, employers can take proactive steps to prevent hand and wrist injuries and promote workplace safety.
5 types of jobs that can cause carpal tunnel syndrome
Both physically demanding jobs and office jobs can place a worker at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. The following job types may place repetitive stress on employees’ fingers, hands and wrists:
- Assembly line and factory workers — Employees who work on an assembly line repeat the same gestures, often moving an object in the same direction for hours on end. These repetitive movements can place strain on specific areas of workers’ hands. In addition, if an assembly worker’s hands are placed in awkward positions during their day, their risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome can increase. To avoid injury, assembly line workers should switch hands if possible. Employers should also inform their workers of the proper body mechanics that ease pressure on the median nerve during assembly line activity.
- Office workers — Office workers who spend long hours typing on a keyboard and using a mouse have a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome, especially if they don’t take breaks. Employers should encourage their office workers to use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, adjust their chair and workstation to the right height, and take regular breaks during the job.
- Telephone operators — According to the CDC, telephone operators have the highest rates of carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition to sitting at a desk all day, telephone operators may have to hold a phone to their ear for long periods of time. Doing so can place strain on their elbows, fingers and wrists, as well as limit blood circulation. This can increase their risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. To avoid injury, workers should use headsets to take calls, which can help ease pressure on their wrists, and use ergonomic keyboards.
- Construction workers — Construction workers often use vibrating handheld tools such as jackhammers and power saws. Over long periods of time, constant vibration can irritate the median nerve in the wrist, causing it to inflame and develop symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Construction workers can avoid carpal tunnel syndrome from vibration by using anti-vibration gloves and taking regular breaks.
- Hairdressers— Hairdressers depend on their hands to create hairstyles throughout the day, often switching between scissors, combs, drying equipment and other tools. Using these objects for long periods of time can place stress on the tendons and nerves in the hands and wrists, especially if they’re handled in awkward positions. This can lead to inflammation and compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. To prevent carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms, employers of hairdressers should provide instruments with ergonomic designs, teach employees hand and finger exercises, and encourage regular breaks between practices.
Work-Fit can help your workers avoid carpal tunnel syndrome, no matter the type of job
Carpal tunnel syndrome can keep your workers from meeting company goals and staying productive. In addition, like any injury, an employee’s carpal tunnel syndrome treatment — which may include physical therapy — can keep them from coming into work. It is important for you to maximize carpal tunnel syndrome prevention strategies, specific to the job type.
Work-Fit can help your employees prevent carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms by providing an ergonomic evaluation of your workplace and offering ergonomic training opportunities. Contact our team today to find out more about all the benefits Work-Fit can bring to your workplace.