Assistive Devices for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Kihei HI
Living Spaces—Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
By Deirdre Shevlin Bell
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you can’t help but bring your work home with you. The condition, often a result of on-the-job repetitive stress injuries, can make the most menial tasks painful or impossible. Simple undertakings like unloading the dishwasher can be an insurmountable chore for people with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Susan Leech, an assistive technology practitioner who teaches in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Texas, El Paso, explains that the pain and weakness carpal tunnel syndrome causes to the hand, wrist, and forearm can make anything that requires grasping or twisting (turning a doorknob, for example) very difficult. She and other occupational therapists recommend some simple modifications throughout the house to help people maintain their normal activities despite limited hand strength.
Opening jars, peeling carrots, chopping an onion—the kitchen presents more challenges to people with carpal tunnel syndrome than any other room in the house. But these tasks and others can become more manageable as more creative assistive devices become available.
• Slicing and peeling: Choose utensils that have U-shaped handles or handles that rise straight up from the utensil. To secure the item you’re chopping or peeling, look for a cutting board that has spikes or a vise to hold the food firmly in place, such as the Swedish Cutting Board ($57.95) from North Coast Functional Supplies (www.beabletodo.com). For quick chopping with no grasping, try the Oxo GoodGrips Chopper ($19.99), which chops up to a cup of food and requires no more effort than the push of a knob.
• Opening jars and bottles: Buy a simple v-shaped tool to grip the lid of the jar while you twist the base. Or take the pressure off entirely and purchase an electric jar-opener, like Black & Decker’s Lids Off ($39.99).
• Eating: Leech recommends choosing utensils with built-up handles to reduce grasping. The Oxo GoodGrips line provides plenty of options, or you can increase the size of your existing silverware by using foam tubing.
• Reaching: Long-handled graspers make retrieving heavy items from high or deep places a snap. Opt for one that’s lightweight and has a locking feature to ensure a firm grip.
Tools that keep the hand in a neutral position—that is, outstretched as though you’re about to shake hands with someone—maximize hand strength and minimize strain. Peta UK makes a line of garden tools that fit that bill (available at www.arthritissupplies.com and other retailers). If you have especially limited hand strength, add on the arm-support cuff, which attaches to the tool and to your forearm to integrate the strength of your whole arm.
Throughout the house
To avoid twisting motions, swap out doorknobs with levers or use a doorknob gripper like the “T” Turning Knob ($16.95) from North Coast. The same site offers adapters for hard-to-turn lamp switches.
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