I no longer need an alarm clock. These days I can count on my body to wake me up in plenty of time to get an early start. But it's not good news. Instead of a gentle beep, beep, I wake to a right hand and arm screaming in pain and yet numb. We're not talking an "oh my goodness, it went to sleep," tingly hand. We're talking a "red hot, ice cold, stiff and feeling like a catcher's mitt" hand. It always goes away once I get up and moving, but the problem is I have no choice in the matter of when I get moving. The silly thing has no timer to set and lately it's been "going off" at 2:58, 3:26 and 4:44 a.m. Good grief. Time to research carpal tunnel again.
Out to the Internet I go, hoping for a new discovery. WebMD says, "Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a specific group of symptoms that can include tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in the fingers, thumb, hand, and occasionally in the arm. These symptoms occur when there is pressure on the median nerve within the wrist." Nothing new there. I know people who swear by surgery, but I'm not ready—even as I find evidence of new procedures that minimize cutting and downtime. WebMD agrees that "the knife" is a last resort, and only recommends it after a year of other treatments like rest, ice packs, wearing splints and doing exercises.
I poke around more and find an in-depth article on the Mayo Clinic site. New information. Carpal tunnel is not a new, technology-age malady. It was documented as early as the beginning of the 20th century, so we can't blame it on keyboards anymore.
The article points out that CTS can "result from overuse or strain in certain job tasks that require a combination of repetitive, forceful and awkward or stressed motions of your hands and wrists." These motions often also involve arms, shoulders and backs. Maybe that explains why I have more problems after gardening, bringing in groceries or painting a wall than after typing an article or two.
I do not believe having numb hands is always only about wrists. The charts on my chiropractor's wall show nerves running from the hand, up through the arms and into the spine at the base of the neck. That explains why I get relief after a deep-tissue massage to release muscle tension in my upper back followed by a chiropractic adjustment. My massage therapist extraordinaire coaxes my muscles into releasing their death grip on my spine so the chiropractor can put it back where it belongs. That removes pressure and allows the squashed nerve to heal.
According to my research, it is unclear whether nerve compression higher up in the spinal column contributes to CTS or just mimics it. Either way, it isn't necessarily as simple as a snip. WebMD says the culprit is an inflamed median nerve in the wrist. There could also be inflammation of the nerves higher up in the spinal column. I could go the pill-taking route and pop ibuprofen and risk screwing up my stomach. Or I could try something herbal, like chamomile tea, and eating lots of pineapple. Or I could apply essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties, like hypericum, Roman cham-omile or tea tree oil.
But if I am looking to reduce inflam-mation, I should look at what I am doing to increase it. Sugar, for example, promotes inflammation. According to Oprah's Web site, "If it contains flour, and/or sugar or other sweetener, it will be pro-inflammatory." Yikes. No wonder I'm in pain.
So there you have it. Once again, it all comes down to taking care of myself. No magic pill. No easy fix. Dang it. My prescription: get a massage, see the chiropractor, watch the sugar and flour, try essential oils, calm myself down with chamomile tea and meditation and do some stretching and exercises—probably between two and three in the morning.
MedLine Plus Diagram
Dr. Duke's Herbal Recommendations for CTS: Willow, Chamomile, Pineapple, Red Pepper, Turmeric, Comfrey, Cumin, Sage, Foods high in vitamin B6.
The Green Pharmacy, James A. Duke, Ph.D., Rodale Press, Inc.
This may not apply to you. It is not medical advice, just things to consider. I am not a doctor. There are some very good ones out there. However, with or without them, we have to do our own research, ask lots of questions and make our own decisions. Ultimately, our health is up to us.
I didn't actually read this story until I got the print edition on Saturday. It brings back alot of painful memories for me, no pun intended. I suffer from CTS in both hands and arthritus in both shoulders. It began when I lived in Brooklyn, NY back in 1996. It was also when I tried to commit suicide for the last time. You see, I was told I wouldn't be able to live a "normal" life with the condition when it came to continuing my art. That to me was a death sentence.
I had gone my whole life being told that I couldn't make it as an artist, and here was a doctor singing the same song. For weeks after my surgery I couldn't give myself a bath or even feed myself. Losing faith and money, I knew I couldn't afford to live in New York much longer without any income coming in, and I would be MS bound again.
After the overdose, "C.A." stepped up and reminded me that the doctor was a man like any of the other people who had doubted me in the past. Nothing made his professional decision absolute. And so I was reborn, and though I still have problems today, I haven't looked for that way out again.
- c a webb
Bless your heart! And congratulations! Every single doctor I know is a human just like me. I have a lot of respect for what they know that I don't, but, ultimately, it's still my responsibility to make the decisions - with information from many other sources taken into account. So glad you found "C.A."!
- Deborah Noel
Glad you're still here CA. This condition has hampered numerous members of my wife's family. It even bothers my wife to some degree. Glad to see an another article on it.
We're glad to have you back, CA. Brooklyn ain't got nothing on Mississippi other than more pavement. I'm hopeful you will still hit the big times and live where you desire.
- Ray Carter
Thanks Deborah and Ray:
Days like this, when there is an overcast, definitely brings those uncomfortable moments associated with the CTS. But what doesn't kill you definitely makes you stronger. I am a living witness to that. And I'm not ready to go anywhere, not yet.
- c a webb