Carpal Tunnel Hacks
January 4, 2013 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I would like your best carpal tunnel hacks and tips.

I've had tingling in my fingers since my 6-month old baby was born and it's not getting better (he is a pretty heavy little guy). I don't think it's exacerbated by typing and computer use as that doesn't seem to bother me much, but I'd really rather not stop holding my baby. I have tingling and numbness throughout the day intermittently and when I wake up in the morning. The pain is not bad at all but the tingling is annoying. What are some tips to avoid triggering it?

I wear wrist braces at night but they're not very comfortable so I take them off in my sleep.

I will see a doctor about this - I am looking for your non-medical hacks and tips.

I found some similar questions but they are all several years old and deal with cases that are much more severe than mine.
posted by bq to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Elbow and wrist support and keeping my keyboard elevated and above my hands as opposed to below them. I use a chair with arms to rest my elbow and then lots of squishy gel pads for my wrists when I mouse and type.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:45 PM on January 4, 2013

Typing will do it to you. You need to change the way you sit and the position of your arms as you type.

What I did was that I changed to a standing desk. It made a huge difference. In fact, it made a noticeable difference.

Almost exactly a year ago, I noticed that the muscles of my left hand were atrophying - my forearm also lost a noticeable amount of mass. It happened quite quickly, over the course of 4 weeks. My pinky finger had been numb for several years, but a year ago I also lost mobility in my index finger too. My shoulders also hurt severely at night.

I thought I had ALS, but a neurologist diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome - my ulnar nerve was getting compressed.

Anyway, I switched to a standing desk in order to straighten my arms as I typed. That was about 8 months ago, and muscle mass has returned to my hand. The numbness and tingling actually faded almost immediately after I made the switch.

The neurologist suggested I sleep with my arm extended (relieve pressure on ulnar nerve as much as possible); since braces are expensive, he suggested using a volleyball kneepad, and reversing it to keep the arm straight at night.

My family doctor (who referred me to the neurologist) vetoed that idea and (in typical fashion) said it was over the top.

Anyway, the main thing to do is to change the way you type on the computer, and relieve constant pressure on that nerve.

I hope this helps.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:53 PM on January 4, 2013

I have carpal tunnel, coupled with a pinched nerve in my neck, so my hands can fall asleep pretty readily.

I find it's about knowing what exacerbates the problem and taking steps to avoid that. For me, slinging a bag over one shoulder is absolute murder - I switched to a backpack instead.

Getting an ergonomic assessment at work made a massive difference.

For wrist braces, do you have the neoprene ones, or the scratchy velcro ones? Get the neoprene ones if you don't have them already.

If all else fails, a hot stone massage helps my neck and arms a lot, too.
posted by LN at 12:56 PM on January 4, 2013

On second reading, if you're not using your computer for work (ie, not 8 hours a day) there may be something else at play.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:00 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Shake your limp wrists and hands out for a minute or so every so often, often enough to shake them before they go numb. Every hour or whatever feels right.
posted by rhizome at 1:15 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Speaking from the experience of someone who spent close to a year in wrist braces, whenever you notice tingling or numbness, stop whatever's exacerbating it. Sadly, some of us push through numbness when pain would make us pay attention; stubborn people like me can take that ignorance to an extreme and make the damage worse.

In my case, poor circulation was a complicating factor and taking steps to keep my hands warm (in combination with rest, physiotherapy, and anti-innflammatories) made a big difference.
posted by thatdawnperson at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think mine was caused in part by picking up the baby with her armpits between my thumbs and index fingers. (Does that makes sense? The baby's sides are in my palms but there's a lot of weight on my thumbs.) I tried to pick her up without putting all the weight on my thumbs. Also, I tried to put the baby on my chest when I was sitting around with her, instead of having all the weight in the inside of my elbow. If you're breast feeding, try leaning way back in the chair/sofa with your feet up so the baby's partially on top of you instead of holding him with your arms. When you're feeding him, see if supporting him and your arms with pillows helps. I had a really fat 6 month old. It didn't go away until my doctor gave me cortisone, but holding her differently helped and might have helped it not come back. She only got fatter for quite some time.
posted by artychoke at 1:36 PM on January 4, 2013

Do all parts of your hand and fingers tingle?
posted by parrot_person at 2:02 PM on January 4, 2013

You probably have DeQuervain's Tendonitis/Tenosynovitis, aka "mother's wrist". I'm sure there are physical therapy exercises and maybe adjustments to how you are holding things and moving, but splints and elevation are going to play a part of it.

When my CT flares, I use a firmer splint during the day and a softer one at night. You might find something softer less irritating.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:05 PM on January 4, 2013

Non-drug, non-surgical, quite possibly available at your local library: Pain Free by Pete Egoscue. I started the postural alignment exercises in the book six weeks into the worst episode of back pain/sciatica I'd had in 15 years of recurrent back pain (back brace, cane, opiate painkillers, waking up in the middle of the night sobbing from pain, that kind of thing). Four days into doing them, I looked at the clock and realized it was late afternoon and I hadn't taken a single Vicodin all day, because I hadn't thought about pain.

I don't have a copy on hand because I keep giving my copy away to friends in pain, so I can't tell you which section relates to hand and wrist issues, but I know one does. Although my wrists weren't the primary problem that caused me to start doing the Egoscue Method, the past problems I'd had have completely disappeared since I've been doing the exercises.
posted by Lexica at 8:21 PM on January 4, 2013

The symptoms are in the thumb and first three fingers, and I also get some soreness in my forearms.

Thanks so much for the tips everyone.
posted by bq at 10:06 PM on January 4, 2013

  • Wear your baby in a sling.
  • For carrying, switch hands regularly. (Don't always use the non-dominant, which is easy to do because you want the good hand free for doing stuff.)

  • posted by spbmp at 10:33 PM on January 4, 2013

    Take breaks! Get a timer, and set it every time you're doing an activity that exacerbates your symptoms, to remind yourself you need a break. A five minute break per thirty minutes of activity is reasonable, but adjust to what you need.
    posted by vasi at 2:54 AM on January 5, 2013

    Not the same issue, but a similar solution. When I was breast feeding I had a very bad back and couldn't sit for more than a few minutes at a time so I had to breast feed lying down on my side. As you're not holding the baby, this solution would work for you for this activity at least.
    posted by Jubey at 4:01 AM on January 5, 2013

    rhizome: Shake your limp wrists and hands out for a minute or so every so often, often enough to shake them before they go numb. Every hour or whatever feels right.
    GENTLY, but relaxed. Don't tense anything, and it doesn't have to be fast backandforthandback... Think of rocking them, instead of shaking.

    Without stretching the tendons, and gently moving the muscles and bones in all normal directions (as much as you are able), the area cannot possibly return to normal motion. You're stuck in a tricky spot: slightly too much motion causes pain and can cause increased inflammation, too little will eventually cause atrophy or shortened tendons. Go easy, but go.
    posted by IAmBroom at 3:28 PM on January 6, 2013

    Thanks again for the suggestions. My hands have improved somewhat which I attribute to less night nursing. I checked in with my doctor and she verified that it was carpal tunnel syndrome by tapping my wrists and making me jump, and told me that the next step in treatment beyond a brace was a nerve-conductivity test followed by surgery. I chose to 'pass' on that option and will be ordering some new and hopefully more comfortable braces from which was her recommendation.
    posted by bq at 12:43 PM on February 4, 2013

    My new wrist braces have arrived and they are a great improvement. I really wish I hadn't wasted my money on the braces I bought at the drugstore. They were so uncomfortable that I would take them off in my sleep. The new wrist supports are neoprene and the brand is McDavid. They are much more comfortable.
    posted by bq at 11:38 AM on February 25, 2013

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