Articles, Ergonomics

The Computer Injury That Is Not Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Is your little finger numb?

Many computer users worry about hand problems. People with hand pain or numbness often assume they have carpal tunnel syndrome (CT). But a less known problem could be the source of the pain. Thoracic outlet syndrome hurts just as intensely as CT. It is caused by poor posture as you sit at the keyboard. The good news is that these and other computer-related injuries will go away. With good posture and work habits, you can be pain free again.

What is Thoraic Outlet Syndrome?

The thoracic outlet is a space between your collarbone and first rib. Through that space go major nerves, arteries, and veins that supply your whole upper extremity. Poor posture for a sustained period of time makes the thoracic outlet smaller and puts pressure on those nerves, arteries, and veins. This can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in your shoulders, upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, hand, and fingers.

What causes Thoraic Outlet Syndrome? Anything you do that pushes your body into a “C” shape with your shoulders hunched forward can cause Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TO):
Sitting hunched over a laptop.
Leaning forward at your desk chair.
Sitting in a chair without upper back support.

How is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome different than carpal tunnel? Sitting at your desk, raise your elbows to shoulder height and point your forearms toward the ceiling. Your arms and your head should form the shape of a letter “E” lying on its side. If your hands feel odd or tingly, you could have or be at risk of TO. In carpal tunnel, there is never any problem with little finger. In TO, there are symptoms in all of the fingers and all of the hand.

How can you prevent Thoracic Outlet Syndrome? With correct posture and exercise, you can prevent or cure TO.

Posture:
Sit with your upper back against the back of your chair.
Hold your head straight.
Adjust your chair correctly.

Exercise:
Walk to strengthen the muscles at the front and back of your spine.

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