Ctrl F is not for Sissies: Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Do you remember WordStar?

If so, you’ll know how old I am. WordStar relied on a vast array of keyboard short cuts, which, at the time, were useful and necessary. However, with the advent of the mouse, those of us who trudged through WordStar and programs like it were thrilled to stop using keyboard shortcuts to navigate programs and left them at the side of the road forever.

Or so we thought.

Last March, I worked on a progress report from hell, and by the time I was done, I was in a hand surgeon’s office. No joke. I’m really hard on my mouse, and I’ve had to learn that keyboard shortcuts are not just another way to accomplish the same thing that a mouse can do with a few clicks – but it can also save my median nerve.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome? According to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The area becomes inflamed and the nerves and tendons are impinged.

Repetitive motion related to job tasks can trigger symptoms of carpal tunnel or painful problems in the hands and wrists, generally called “repetitive motion disorder.” The difference is simply which nerves are causing pain and numbness.

What can you do to prevent these symptoms from occurring in the first place?

1. Take frequent breaks from your computer. Get up, walk around, and stretch.

2. Stretch your hands and wrists, gently, while working. (I’m not providing medical advice, but the idea is to keep your hand open, and with gentle pressure from your other hand, press it forward and back until you feel a stretch down your arm. It should feel good – not painful.)

3. Use correct posture, and make sure your monitor, keyboard and chair are at the correct height and placement.

4. Have the correct wrist rest or keyboard drawer so that your arm, shoulder and wrist are comfortable when you work.

What is Ctrl F? You ask?

Find – it searches any document – to prevent scrolling and scanning. It saves boatloads of time.

Embrace your keyboard, and your wrists will love you for it. I’m learning to.


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