Carpal Tunnel
July 1, 2004 1:25 PM   Subscribe

CarpalTunnelFilter: My CTS is flaring up. (Numb and tingling for about an hour upon awakening, moderate pain throughout the day.) Before you say "Go to a Doctor", I am going to a doctor, next week probably. (I have to call the HMO and see when they can fit me in.) What can I do in the meantime? Right now I am: wearing a wrist splint while sleeping, and taking ibuprofen. I've also given myself a rest from knitting, and doing cross-stitching instead. I find that putting heat on the wrist helps, but some people are telling me to use ice instead. Anyone have personal experience of what works? What should I make sure to bring up to the doctor? Has B6 worked for anyone?
posted by Shoeburyness to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Stretch the flexors and extenders of your hands a lot. Here are some pretty good descriptions of some stretches. Also, I'd be inclined to go with ice, since your dealing with inflammation. The heat may be temporarily ameliorative, but ice will actually reduce the swelling.
posted by Fenriss at 1:57 PM on July 1, 2004

I second the ice -- it always gives me more relief than the heat (although heat always feels better at the time!). Also, if you practice yoga, here are some suggestions from Yoga Journal for general wrist strengthening, as well as for carpal tunnel problems specifically.
posted by scody at 2:08 PM on July 1, 2004

Remove transfats (they're in anything deep fried, and in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are in just about all junk food and most packaged food) from your diet. They feed the production of the prostaglandins that cause inflammation.

Your doctor might want to shoot you up with corticosteroids. He or she almost certainly won't warn you that it will relieve inflammation because inflammation is an immune system response, and it'll suppress your immune system in general (though if you're otherwise in good health, this probably wouldn't be dangerous.) He or she also almost certainly won't warn you that the large majority of repetitive stress injury sufferers who take steroid shots are suffering again in a year or two (I forget which.) But this is probably because their relief is sufficiently profound that they keep on doing all the things they were doing.

Lay off the cross-stitching. The less you use your arms, the better.

Good chiropractic can work wonders for relieving repetitive stress injury pain -- misaligned bones kink the casing through which your tendons slide, creating inflammation. (This assertion will outrage some, but it makes sense to me and I've had rapid relief from chiropractic adjustment. Note also that the difference between good chiropractic and bad chiropractic is as profound as the difference between good sex and bad sex.)

Everything you can do to minimize stress and pursue a healthy lifestyle will help; everything you don't do will hurt. Get enough sleep, eat right, exercise (when you're better.)

And remember, pain is your body's way of saying "don't do that!" If you have a repetitive stress injury, you gotta change your life, or it'll keep coming back and it'll keep getting worse.

I'm assuming your diagnosis isn't really Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is very rare, but tendinitis or another RSI. If it is the former, don't wait a week to see the doctor.

(All this is from a perspective of having spent months in constant pain from fingertip to shoulder in both arms after working for a couple of start-ups... and no longer being limited in my activities now... with the exception that I have to sleep enough, and eat well, and exercise or the twinges come back.)

Filthy self-link to an RSI article I wrote for a writing magazine.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 3:04 PM on July 1, 2004

If using a computer mouse is at all aggravating it, I'd recommend switching to a pen-based graphics tablet. That was a huge relief for me.

I was also very intriged by this head tracking sensor at the time, but never tried it out.
posted by 4easypayments at 3:15 PM on July 1, 2004

I switched to a pen/tablet doohickey to ease the tendonitus in my clicking fingers (first and second for guitarists) and it didn't work for me. Holding the pen gave me the same problem as using a mouse. What did work for me was using one of those incredibly annoying mice that Apple makes where the entire body of the mouse serves as the button. My hands have been bothering me much, much less because clicking is now performed with the entire hand.

I don't know if that's applicable to wrist problems or if such a mouse is available for PCs, but it worked well enough for me I thought I'd share.

And yes, I miss my second mouse button terribly.
posted by stet at 3:25 PM on July 1, 2004

Response by poster: I do have a diagnosis of CTS, but up until now, wearing the wrist brace at night and taking ibuprofen would take care of it. Knitting, cross-stitching and typing don't really cause pain-- the only thing that really does is using the mouse. It flared up a lot when I was pregnant, and that was the first time I started having symptoms in the left wrist, but then it went away shortly after I delivered (as is usually the case.) Now, three months later, it's flaring up again, in both wrists. Thanks for all the suggestions so far.
posted by Shoeburyness at 3:52 PM on July 1, 2004

B6 worked wonders for me. I was truly amazed. I've been fanatic about proper keyboard positioning, but a few years ago I had several months of extremely long hours at work and ended up with twitchy fingers and sore forearms. I started taking pretty significant doses of B6 (100mg 3x daily) and it cleared up in about a week. I backed off the dosage to about 50mg a day at that point and have taken it on and off since then.
posted by mccreath at 4:39 PM on July 1, 2004

I switched to the Dvorak keyboard layout when I began having pain in my hands. Seems to have worked.

You're already using the gloves, right? Most people I know with CTS are; Adam Engst has recommended them several times in the Mac publication TidBITS.

I would advise against the chiropractor. Sorry, there is no way that adjusting your back is going to have any effect on your wrists. It may, however, cause the chiropractor some added wrist pain when he lifts his wallet, which has been fattened by your money. Chiropractic can be decent for back problems and I can see how it might help with certain other conditions, but I can guarantee it will do nothing for CTS.
posted by kindall at 5:31 PM on July 1, 2004 [1 favorite]

Most chiropractors adjust bones other than the spine these days... there just isn't a different word for bone-adjustors-that-adjust-more-than-just-the-spine.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 7:46 PM on July 1, 2004

Wow, they've really branched out then. Back when I was a kid and going to a chirorpractor every week, they were exclusively spine guys. Although some of them also did massage and heat treatments and the like, it was always in the general spinal region.
posted by kindall at 8:05 PM on July 1, 2004

kindall, sometimes RSI can be aggravated by some fairly distant part of the body. If your back is out of whack and causing you to use a funny posture when you type, this could affect your shoulders, arms, wrist, etc. I don't think it's the first thing to look at, but I also don't think it should be dismissed out-of-hand.
posted by hattifattener at 9:52 PM on July 1, 2004

I have used the Natural Point (as linked to above by 4easypayments). I have to say that I found it did more harm than good. Initially I found it wonderful as I could relax my arms, but I found that the tiny movements required to adjust my head ever so slightly so as to highlight a given checkbox (or whatever) ended up giving me a bit of a pain in my neck. If you think that your RSI stems from a back problem/weakness then the Natural Point probably isn't for you. Other people seem to have used it without problems though .....
posted by urban greeting at 2:56 AM on July 2, 2004

Conquering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome : And Other Repetitive Strain Injuries, by Sharon Butler, is helpful if you're a patient person who doesn't mind stretching verrrrrrry slowly. She also has tips on her website.
posted by callmejay at 12:57 PM on July 2, 2004

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