Technology can be a wonderful tool for helping children learn. For example, with the help of the Internet, we can now access a wealth of information that was previously impossible to get a hold of. But there can be drawbacks to having technology. Health problems that were previously thought to be only present in adults are now starting to happen to younger people. Today, we’re going to be focusing on preventing carpal tunnel syndrome in kids.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome in kids?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is an injury that often results from doing repetitive tasks with your hands over long periods of time. There’s an area in your wrist called the carpal tunnel, and overworking your hands can cause the neighbouring median nerve to swell and put pressure on the carpal tunnel. The symptoms include numbness, a feeling of pins and needles in your hands, and pain.
Good examples of activities where carpal tunnel would be high risk are playing piano, hammering nails, performing surgery, and — you guessed it — typing on a keyboard, phone or tablet. Previously, keyboarding was the domain of clerical workers, but now that just about everyone has a computer, carpal tunnel is becoming a more common problem. Children are starting to use computers at younger and younger ages, so it stands to reason that there could be a greater risk of kids getting carpal tunnel syndrome.
Preventing carpal tunnel syndrome in kids
At its worst, carpal tunnel syndrome can require surgery to fix. But don’t panic! More often than not, carpal tunnel syndrome in kids can be either treated or prevented with relative ease.
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So we’d recommend teaching children at an early age how to use a keyboard properly.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome is often caused by awkward positioning of the hands — typing while having your wrists bent is an absolute no-no. This constricts the nerves in your wrists and makes them prone to injury. As a rule of thumb, WebMD says that your hands should not be lower than your wrists.
- Look at your child’s work space. There are many factors that can cause your child to strain his or her wrists. For example, look at the height of your child’s desk and chair. A workspace too low or high can cause awkward hand positions.
- Pay attention to good posture. If your child’s shoulders are hunched and tensed, that can affect their typing position. You would also do well to examine if bad posture is resulting from an awkward workspace (for example, desks and chairs that are too high, low or far apart) or if your child just needs a few pointers on how to sit and type properly — for instance, don’t slouch, keep your back straight, etc.
- Study keyboarding ergonomics. In a nutshell, this is basically the practice of finding the most efficient way to position yourself and your computer when working. There are plenty of resources you can find. Cornell University has one example.
Treating carpal tunnel syndrome in kids
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be anything from inconvenient to crippling. We recommend checking in with your kids regularly to see how they are feeling. Are they experiencing pins and needles when typing? Mayoclinic.org recommends that you stop your kids and ice their hands. Schedule frequent breaks, preferably before pain starts to set in. And it’s best to explain to your children that a minimum amount of effort is needed when typing. Carpal tunnel is often exacerbated when banging hard on a keyboard, the above mayoclinic.org article says.
Beyond scheduling breaks and icing, wearing a splint at night can help relieve carpal tunnel syndrome in kids. That’s because it forces wrists to stay in a straight position for a prolonged period of time. This gives inflamed nerves time to recover.
Be vigilant — carpal tunnel syndrome often strikes slowly
Students, especially younger children, will have a hard time self-monitoring because carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms do not happen suddenly. They are a cumulative effect of days, months and years of stress. So it would be wise to regularly check your kids’ posture. Ask them if they are feeling any discomfort in their wrists. And make children take regular breaks from keyboarding.