The term “occupational diseases” refers to medical conditions triggered or made worse by exposure to certain risk factors that occur in normal working environment. Health problems of this type currently affect practically everyone. What is only different is the cause and type of injury. Unfortunately, translators too are affected by work-related health issues. A while ago we discussed back pain and eye strain that are particularly common. Another health problem you might experience is carpal tunnel syndrome.
Prolonged sessions in front of a computer monitor can cause changes in your locomotor system, especially if you do not make up for this by engaging in some physical activity after work. You even risk developing this wrist injury when typing quickly and for a long time.
The main emphasis should therefore be placed on the working conditions created by the employer, or – in the case of freelancers – by the translators themselves.
Carpal tunnel syndrome – what is it?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a median nerve function disorder that occurs as a result of chronic pressure. Its development is caused by overloading a hand by performing repetitive activities. It usually affects mainly the dominant hand.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is initially manifested by sporadic numbness and pain in the fingers. You can suspect you have it if the pain and fingers numbness (the thumb, index, middle and the ring finger) wake you up from sleep. At the beginning of the first stage of the disease, this is rare. Then the symptoms appear many times during the night, and the pain radiates to the forearm or even to the shoulder. In the second stage, the symptoms also occur during the day, especially when performing exercise. This is accompanied by the deterioration of manual dexterity in activities requiring precision, such as sewing, peeling vegetables, or doing makeup. In the third stage of carpal tunnel syndrome, the earlier symptoms worsen and muscular atrophies appear. This is a signal of deepening degenerative changes in the median nerve.
If you consult an orthopedist in the early stages of the disease, chances are all you’ll need is non-surgical treatment. This involves short-term immobilization of the hand in an orthosis to eliminate swelling and inflammation of the tendons, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy using iontophoresis, ultrasounds or TENS currents. Sometimes steroids are administered to the wrist channel. This eliminates inflammation, but can also destroy tissues – in this case – the overgrown tendon sheaths.
How to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome
You can easily minimize the risk of its development. If you type for a long time or do other repetitive movements with your hands, you should remember about regular short breaks at work. Taking regular hand exercises can also make a difference. For example, you can lift your hands above your head while making circular movements with your wrists. This exercise will not only bring relief to the wrists, but also improve the position of the shoulder and upper back, reducing tension. Remember to repeat it several times a day.
When working at the computer, don’t forget about the proper posture too. Sit upright, keeping your forearms parallel to the floor and with your feet flat on the floor. Investing in a keyboard with a good wrist rest can also help.
Proper sleeping position can also play a part in preventing or lessening the symptoms. Sleep on your back with your hands along your body while keeping your wrists straight. Also, try not to let the hand fall off the edge of the bed, which may increase the pressure in the wrist canal.