Court reporters are at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome due to the repetitive tasks that they perform for hours at a time every day they go to work. Preventing the development of carpal tunnel as a career court reporter will require attention to optimal ergonomics and wrist/hand fitness is the best prevention. If the injury has already occurred, however, there are steps that can be taken to alleviate symptoms and manage pain. The neglect of symptoms at onset is a mistake and can be debilitating to the point of job loss and the inability to use one’s hands or wrists effectively.
While working in a courtroom or office, it is important to make sure that your feet are situated flat on the floor and that you are sitting in a comfortable upright position. The way your body rests and is situated in proportion to your equipment makes a big difference on how your muscles might tense and feel stress. If there is too much tension or stress, it can lead to injury in your wrists and hands.
Court reporters should maximize courtroom breaks to perform a few simple exercises for your wrists and hands, as well as stretch your shoulders and arms, elbows and upper body. If you can take a few moments during lulls in a deposition when you are not expected to be recording information, you might take the opportunity to engage in quick hand exercises at least once every hour in order to keep flexion and tension at their best levels and strengthen the muscles in your hands, wrists and forearms.
A simple exercise known as the “prayer stretch” may be helpful if you can do it without being noticed (others in a courtroom setting might be disconcerted to see an Illinois court reporter appear to be praying on the job). Place the palms of your hands together near your chest and draw your arms down until you feel tension, and hold for ten seconds or so. Repeat two or three times. Finger push-ups is an exercise that you can do more easily without being seen is to put the palms of your hands flat on a table, and lift your wrists up for ten seconds or so, repeating several times.
Use basic and simple ergonomic principles such as keeping computer monitors at eye level, not overextending your arm or hand to use a mouse, and having a comfortable chair to sit in; the chairs used by court reporters should be at least as comfortable as the one used by the judge.
If you are a court reported and are experiencing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, it is important to seek medical help and take the advice of your medical practitioner.
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