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February 11, 2006

The Curse

I've been having an awful time sleeping the past two weeks, or so. I'll wake up every few hours with a painful numbness (trust me, it's possible) from my elbows to my fingertips. During the day my hands have become increasingly numb with a very uncomfortable (sometimes painful) tingling sensation, most noticable when typing or driving. I also remember around thanksgiving I went through about 3 days of extreme pain in my forearms

Many will already recognize this as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, very common among "us". I knew something was wrong, but I hate admitting I'm afflicted with anything. I didn't really know much about it, but before I realized what the problem was, I thought it had something to do with bad circulation, maybe a side effect of my growing waistline. After I started complaining about the symptoms, my wife told me it was CTS, that I should get some wrist braces, and go see a Doctor. I didn't listen until the other day (not that I went to the doctor. Please. There are some tests you can use mentioned below).

So that's what I've got. I bought some wrist braces at the local drug store. One for each arm size "large". My ass. I've got forearms like a gorilla, I must need XXXX Large, but that size is not to be had. These things just manage to restrict blood supply and put more pressure on the carpal tunnel. I've been loosly wearing them at night and they keep my wrists straight, but they make my forearms sore in the morning due to their pressure. They still help because I've only been waking up about once a night with painful forearms; still sucks, but heaven compared to not wearing them.

It took about 24 hours with these sucky braces to realize I needed something better. I spent some time on the internet looking at possible substitutes. As you can imagine, there are several to choose from. I finally found this WebmasterWorld thread that discussed this same issue. I strongly suggest anyone struggling with repetitive stress or CTS to check out that thread; there are some great suggestions there. Anyway, someone mentioned the "Carpal Lock" wrist brace. I did some Googling and found many retailers that offered this brace. The best price I found was at Allegro Medical, $22. They are sold elsewhere for as much as $35. They come in three sizes, suggesting Large for people with hands 4 inches wide or wider. Well, my paws are just a little over 4", so I got one for each hand.

I like the looks of these because the solid brace is on the top and the straps are nowhere near the carpal tunnel, so they don't add any pressure. The cheap braces I bought wrap your wrists in neoprene, so they're are kind of hot, the Carpal Locks look much cooler (temperature). I'm supposed to be getting them in the next few days. I'll report back with my impressions.

Another thing to do to help CTS is take an anti-inflammatory. Over the counter varieties include naproxen sodium and ibuprofen. Advil is a common brand of ibuprofen. These medications are also pain releavers which comes in handy. They reduce swelling and minimize the pressure being placed on the nerve in your wrist which is the cause of the pain, tingling, and numbness. Tylenol's active ingredient is acetaminophen; this is a pain reliever, but not an anti-inflammatory; so it shouldn't be your first choice.

I've seen it recommended that the CTS-afflicted should try taking a break from or minimizing activities that cause or irritate the condition. It's my understanding that keyboarding is not proven to be a cause of CTS. However, I think it contributes in my case. I have poor posture at the computer and my wrists are always touching the hard desk; I have no doubt that this is a major reason I am experiencing these problems; science be damned. Another of my problems is how I sleep. My wife tells me I sleep with my wrists severely bent inward. Since I broke my silence and started complaining of my symptoms, she has often woken up to try to straighten my wrists for me. So I wear the braces at night to help with the wrist-bending and I've cut back on my computer usage. If limiting contributing factors doesn't help the symptoms, you're supposed to quit.

Wikipedia and WebMD both have decent articles about the subject. Both mention two tests you can perform yourself to see if you might have CTS. Of course, this is no substitute for personal, professional medical advice; I just mention it for people like me who hate being officially diagnosed with anything. Wikipedia mentions masturbation as being a possible contributing factor...just throwing that out there.

Posted 14 years, 7 months ago on February 11, 2006
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