Of all the injuries and debilitating conditions one can have, there's something distinctly unglamorous about carpal tunnel syndrome.
Not exactly sure why I feel this way, but it probably has something to do with the fact that CTS tends to be associated with sitting on your ass all day and typing rather than, say, rescuing people from burning buildings, rock climbing, BMX, playing guitar and other activities that are likely to cause injury.
This isn't entirely true, though. It seems that while computer use may exacerbate or cause the condition, you're just as likely to get it from using power tools. (Now, that's more like it.)
CTS results from the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the hand, getting pressed or squeezed at the wrist. And it bloody well hurts.
Symptoms include pain, burning, numbness, itching, swelling and combinations thereof in the wrist, fingers and hand.
It can be worse at night, and affects more women than men. It can be severely disabling, and has forced people to leave seemingly physically non-challenging jobs like receptionist or bookkeeper.
What the experts say
"If you have pain in both hands, that's a marker for a more serious inflammatory disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be an indication of hypothyroidism or diabetes. If it's carpal tunnel, acupuncture works really well. Vitamin B6 is a standard-issue prescription. Another treatment is a resting splint. You want to make ergonomic corrections . Have an expert come.
In terms of dealing with inflammation, a really good fish oil with omega 3s will help. Switch to an alkaline diet , meaning a lot of fruits and vegetables. In a technique called contrast hydrotherapy , you put the affected area in very warm water for three minutes, then plunge it into cold for 30 seconds several times.'
ZORANA ROSE , naturopath, Toronto
"Surgeries have a dubious success rate for carpal tunnel - about two-thirds [succeed]. Nerve and tendon gliding exercises that do not move the wrist eliminated the condition for one-third of people scheduled for surgery. After every 20 to 40 minutes of typing, stretch the wrist by holding the hand back for five seconds, doing five of these stretches. That can be used as a preventative measure. Another is the chin-tucking exercise . Push the chin back as far as you can without creating negative sensations - five repetitions. There are two points of impingement aggravating carpal tunnel, one in the wrist, the other in the neck. Sit in a way that supports the lower back and neck.'
SCOTT TURNER , physiotherapist, Oshawa
"There are a few anti-inflammatory herbs specific to nerves. One of the better ones would be St. John's wort . Black cohosh , willow bark and cramp bark are others. You can combine them to make a tea. A castor oil pack (castor oil soaked into a cloth and wrapped around the wrist) relieves spasms, as do turmeric powder or bromelain taken in capsule form. Cold packs can also be helpful.'
CELINA AINSWORTH , herbalist, Toronto
"Optimal healthy sitting posture involves sitting upright, with the rib cage elevated , not allowing the weight of the trunk to collapse on the arms. Most important is to relax the shoulders and improve the coordination between the shoulder and hand. When typing or using the mouse, the wrist should be held stable and relaxed , with the movement coming from the shoulders in a slight forward and backward gliding motion over the keys. Forearms should be slightly below horizontal . Holding the forearms in this way reduces stress on the neck and upper back.'
KAREN JONGEDIJK , chiropractor, Toronto
"Reiki is a high-frequency, universal life force energy. It works with disturbances and changes the energy patterns. Directed to the hand and wrist, it can shift the frequencies, reduce pain and get the hand moving. If you want to try something on your own, visualize the hand with carpal tunnel in front of you, and with your good hand snap your fingers over the affected hand . This loosens the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Another technique is to visualize a cushion of gold light filling the joint . Start at your wrist and move down to your fingertips. Do that five times. This helps support the joint.'
SIMONE BOWMAN , reiki master, Toronto