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A Stretch to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Aug 28, 2008
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is an affliction that can affect anyone who pecks away at a computer keyboard - and that includes elementary and high school students who may eventually work in computer-related jobs.

CAUSE
The syndrome is caused by repetitive stress, such as typing, and occurs because of compression of the median nerve that runs down the wrist and enters the palm of the hand. Much like shin splints, it is an overuse injury.

The result is pain and numbness in the fingers and thumb. In severe cases, the pain can be so intense that it becomes debilitating and can results in missed work days.

While there are a number of braces and cuffs that can be used to alleviate the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, the best solution is prevention.

Here is an exercise that is an effective way to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. While it may a challenge fitting it into traditional physical education or fitness classes, this exercise - as when we teach students how to properly bend and lift - could prevent a lot of workplace misery in the future. For that reason, it's a valuable exercise to teach.

However, another benefit for students who may be typing marathon term papers is that this stretch feels good and makes for a nice mini-break.

WHY THIS STRETCH IS EFFECTIVE
This stretch works by reducing tension in the carpal tunnel: the space between the carpal bones of the wrist and the connective tissue that covers the flexor tendons. The carpal tunnel, which contains the median nerve, compresses the nerve when it is tight and tense - such as after prolonged typing.

CARPAL TUNNEL STRETCH
The Carpal Tunnel stretch should be performed frequently for about five seconds at a time. Have your students hold their hands together in front of them, palms touching, as if praying. Maintaining contact at the palms, they gradually lift their elbows until they feel some stretch in their wrists and at the base of their hands. Instruct them to hold for five seconds, then release and type away.

HOW TO FIT INTO FITNESS OR PHYSICAL EDUCATION CLASSES
One idea for fitting these movements into physical education classes is to perform the stretch during other activities: for example, during aerobics, or strength movements such as the forward lunge, or during the warmup or warmdown period. Be sure to explain the reason for the stretch and how it can be used when typing.

While it is not a traditional physical education stretch, teaching it your students will pay dividends in the future.
About the Author
Dick Moss (editor@peupdate.com) is the publisher of PE Update.com - a website that keeps physical educators and coaches up-to-date on over 40 sports, fitness and coaching topics. The website also provides a free newsletter, blog and sample articles. Check it out at: www.peUpdate.com
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