Crippled Carpal Tunnel?
Due to repetitive typing I have developed carpal tunnel in both arms. I was given anti-inflammatory medication for this. Then I developed stomach problems - gastritis and irritable bowel syndrome. After two years of getting all kinds of tests done and having doctors tell me that I was going to have to live with this the rest of my life, I got fed up. I recently have begun to see a doctor of oriental medicine, who started me on herbs including ginger tablets with DGL. On my second visit he performed acupuncture. I have started to feel better. Do you think that with oriental medicine my carpal tunnel will also get better?
When you're an especially speedy typist or spend long hours at the keyboard, the tendons that move the fingers can swell up. There's one little tunnel at the base of your palm that all the tendons and one very important nerve pass through from your arm to your hand. That's where the swelling and pressure can become especially painful and irritating, causing a condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
The most effective treatment that I've found, is B-6 or pyridoxine - 100 mg, two or three times a day. In this dosage, pyridoxine is not acting as a B-vitamin, but rather as a natural, therapeutic agent that relieves nerve compression injuries. Be aware that doses of B-6 above 300 mg a day have caused rare cases of nerve damage in a few individuals. Discontinue usage if you develop any unusual numbness. (A much-publicized University of Michigan study warned about nerve toxicity with B-6 and discouraged people from using it for CTS. I disagree.)
For quick relief when you're hurting, rub on arnica gel, which you can find in your health-food store or drugstore. Also, try wrapping ice packs around your wrists (a bag of frozen peas works just as well). If you use this for five minutes every few hours when you're especially stressing your wrists, it may ease the pain and the inflammation. The ginger you mention may relieve inflammation, and acupuncture certainly can provide symptomatic relief.
The most important consideration when you've got CTS is to figure out ways to reduce your typing. Unless you lessen the strain on your wrists, long-term improvement is unlikely. That means less typing, and learning how to stop driving yourself so hard at the keyboard. Here are a couple of other things to try: Make yourself stand up every hour for a few minutes and stretch. The muscles in your wrists are connected all the way up through your arms, across your shoulders, and up into your neck. Pay attention to those parts of your body, too, because stretching and relaxing your shoulders, neck, and back can ease the strain on your wrists. I know some people who have found a lot of relief through deep-tissue massage or Rolfing. And consider whether you're feeling some emotional tension at work that tightens your whole body, making it more susceptible to injury.
Your posture at the keyboard can make a big difference. Sit up straight, with your weight slightly forward. Your feet should be flat on the floor, or tilting comfortably on an adjustable footrest. An adjustable keyboard tray allows you to change the position of your hands now and then, and helps you keep your wrists straight, with your forearms horizontal and at a 90-degree angle to your upper arms. Your elbows should be hanging by your sides in a relaxed position. Every now and then, tilt your head slowly to each side, and roll your shoulders twice forward, and twice back. Squeeze your hands into a tight fist and then stretch your fingers out as wide as they will go. Pull them back into a fist and rotate the fists a few times each direction.
You may also want to try a different keyboard. Each brand has its own key touches and key widths, some of which may feel better to you than others. If you can find a split keyboard, it may help you keep your hands and arms at a more natural angle. There are also some new keyboards with concave keys, sections tilted up like an accordion, and other unusual shapes. I haven't tried them, but you may want to check them out.