On Selam Retta’s right hand is a scar due to surgery he underwent. This 20-something year old New York Giants fan did not incur his injury on the football field imitating Michael Strahan but rather during his 9 to 5. As a Software Engineer, Selam’s duties require him to utilize the mouse excessively and as a result he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.
According to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (although not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move.
Selam described a pain that progressed from his wrist to his neck. “The pain started with my wrist, radiated to my elbow, then to my shoulders, my back and then my neck. My nerves got affected and I felt the pain from the inside of my palm.” Selam’s little finger became numb as the pain gradually increased. He endured the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome for four long years until finally undergoing surgery a little over a year ago.
While surgery was the only choice for Selam, he doesn’t recommend it for everyone, “Surgery should be the last option because you could end up being unable to use your hand again.” It took Selam three months to recover after surgery. During this period, Selam had to learn to write with his left hand and wrote with it for two months.
Selam’s advice to others who think they may have carpal tunnel syndrome is to walk away, “As soon as your fingers feel numb, take a break and do not use the computer.” He added, “The key is to let your hand rest and if you have a computer at home don’t use it.” He mentioned the use of ergonomic furniture, “People use different methods to reduce complications for example; health conscious companies provide ergonomic furniture.” This type of furniture claims to improve user safety and comfort, simultaneously increasing productivity. However, according to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, research has not conclusively shown that these workplace changes prevent the occurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome.
These days, Selam is back on the football field and its business as usual during his 9 to 5. He is using his right hand again and continues to exercise caution both on the field and at the office, taking small breaks and following his own advice.